As the Regulator of Social Housing becomes independent today, Fiona MacGregor writes that it is essential to have a standalone, fee-funded regulator
Today is a big day for the Regulator of Social Housing, as we become an organisation in our own right.
This change in status brings into effect the conclusion of the tailored review of the Homes and Communities Agency, which began back in February 2016.
It has not been a quiet time for the regulator, or for the sector, in that period.
Among other things, the Welfare Reform and Work Act introduced rent reductions, which are now in their third year.
The roll-out of Universal Credit is building up pace, with increasing numbers of social housing tenants covered by the new regime.
Private registered providers were classified to the public sector and then re-classified as private sector bodies by the Office for National Statistics following the implementation of de-regulation measures, including the removal of the regulator’s consents powers.
Over that period, we have successfully introduced and refined our operating model, which includes the ‘in-depth assessment’ approach on which we continue to receive good feedback.
We have also recently seen the introduction of the housing administration regime although, as with our moratorium powers, our aim would be to identify and remedy issues before those powers need to be used.
Our recent experience with a number of cases that have been non-compliant has shown that although we will always be co-regulatory in our approach, we stand prepared to take decisive regulatory action when necessary.
Sadly, there has also been the tragic Grenfell Tower fire which is currently the subject of a public inquiry.
While we await the government’s response to the recommendations of the Hackitt Review, the events at Grenfell Tower have sparked a significant public debate, as well as a debate across the sector, about how best to meet the needs and aspirations of tenants.
We urge as many stakeholders as possible to respond to both of these consultations, and for landlords, to reflect the views of your tenants in doing so. You can only shape the debate if you participate.
The green paper consultation may lead to changes in the role and remit of the regulator.
We are confident that, as a standalone body, we will be able to adapt to further changes as they emerge. Indeed, one of our core values, developed by our staff, states “we are agile and react positively to change”.
In the meantime, however, we think it is a huge tribute to our staff that you will not have seen any diminution in focus in our current role, and in our effective regulation, as we have prepared ourselves to become standalone. Support for that role, and for the way we undertake it, was underlined in the results of our recent Stakeholder Survey.
Becoming standalone means changes for us, such as the Regulation Committee becoming the board of the Regulator of Social Housing.
But for the sector, and our stakeholders, we actually hope that you will see no change in the things that matter to you – effective and proportionate regulation.
There can be no doubt that the need for effective economic regulation remains, alongside an increased focus on providing good services to consumers, both of which were very much reflected in the prime minister’s recent speech to the National Housing Summit.
The changes we have seen in recent years, along with any to come, reinforce for us that it is essential to have a strong, standalone fee-funded regulator, in line with the findings of the tailored review.