Affordable Housing Holds Key to Reviving Areas of Deprivation; There Are Massive Economic Benefits in Transforming Regulation and Investment Performance of Housing Associations, Says Nick Bennett, Chief Executive Community Housing Cymru
Byline: Nick Bennett
IN October at a plenary of the National Assembly for Wales, Jocelyn Davies, deputy Minister for Housing in the One Wales Assembly Government announced that there would be an independent review of the regulation of registered social landlords.
Hardly an earth-shattering announcement I hear you say, yet this simple statement could lead to an additional investment of at least pounds 112mover the next four years in badly needed additional affordable housing in Wales, as well as investment in the regeneration of some of Wales' most deprived communities.
Community Housing Cymru has long argued that the regulatory balance on voluntary housing organisations was wrong.
Through failing to get the best out of the largest part of the social economy in Wales, there was a danger that Wales would miss out on the additional investment benefits the sector can bring at a time when the limits on the growth in public spending in Wales are tighter than ever, as evidenced by the recent Comprehensive Spending Review.
Effective regulation as well as collaboration between providers and the use of housing association assets and resources should be maximised, making best use of every one of Sir Jeremy Beecham's Welsh pounds.
Housing association assets in Wales are worth approximately pounds 3bn and are being under utilised by the constraining regulatory environment in which they operate.
Housing associations are social enterprises, with tenants making up one quarter of board members.
They are the main providers of new affordable homes and are significant investors in community regeneration.
To play a greater part in regeneration, in a way which is consistent with the ambitions set out in Making the Connections, we believed that a fundamental review of their regulatory environment was necessary.
We wanted the review to: maximise use of the available housing association assets and resources; to speed up the delivery of the social housing grant programme reflecting the proper strategic roles of the Welsh Assembly Government and local authorities and the delivery role of housing associations; and to ensure a robust, outcome-focused system for inspecting the performance of housing associations that is value for money for the regulator and the regulated.
So we were delighted when an independent review, headed by former Finance and Public Services Minister Sue Essex, was announced.
It was given the objectives of: removing the constraints on the ability of registered social landlords to deliver broader social products necessary for sustainable communities including tackling homelessness; identifying the opportunities for releasing more investment or funding in the sector to meet the One Wales goals; as well as incentivising higher environmental standards, identifying further opportunities for using the Making the Connections agenda to good effect in the housing area. …