How to regulate Housing Associations

Housing Associations (HAs) and other similar organisations are currently regulated by the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA), the Audit Commission and the Tenant Services Agency (TSA).

The TSA regulates housing management. It’s a new organisation, hasn’t really worked and is being abolished. Essentially, it was toothless so HAs didn’t give two hoots what it said about them.

The Audit Commission regulates overall performance (finances, repairs, rent collection, etc). They were surprisingly rubbish at it – everyone reading the first edition of the Key Line Of Enquiry documents thought “flip me – they don’t have a clue!”. And like the TSA, they’re being abolished.

The HCA isn’t being abolished, but its role is being reduced to doling out development funding. From the look of it they won’t be doing much else.

So who is going to regulate Housing Associations? The obvious candidate is local authorities.

Generally local authorities have about 50-60 HAs on their patch. One experienced person could keep an eye on that number, particularly as many will be Supported Housing and can mostly be left to the Supporting People team or social services contract managers. A local authority will want to ensure HAs are providing a decent service, after all they’re going to be housing people in their stock and dealing with tenancy failures. And importantly, local authorities have some real teeth: they say who gets to be a development partner, pay out various grants and control allocations.

There’s even a bit of legislation requiring HAs to co-operate with a local authority, although I can never remember which act it’s in (1980, 1985 or 1988 I think, one of them).

And hey, it even fits with the Government’s localisation agenda – shift HA regulation from central to local government. Somehow I can’t see it happening but to me it’s a no-brainer.

Article written on 8 December but accidentally saved as a draft rather than posted.

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