National Federation of ALMOs (NFA) managing director, Eamon McGoldrick, has confirmed talks over a new regulator or ombudsman to oversee councils with housing stock.
In an interview with LGC today (June 13), McGoldrick says: “About 55-60% of the socially rented housing stock is managed by housing associations, but 100% of the failings on public record are through housing associations – that doesn’t seem right.”
McGoldrick said he had been talking to civil servants about the possibility of creating a “light touch” regulator or ombudsman to oversee councils with homes in-house or managed by ALMOs.
All social housing providers in England are required to be registered with the Regulator of Social Housing, including those whose stock is managed by an ALMO or a tenant management organisation.
In April, however, the regulator said it only used regulatory and enforcement powers where it judged there had been a breach of a consumer standard which had caused – or could cause – serious detriment.
McGoldrick said most serious detriment cases relate to missed gas servicing and “a few” for fire safety.
“If you are a housing association you will tell the regulator you have fallen behind with gas servicing, because if you don’t and the regulator finds out you will get downgraded… which in turn impacts on their ability to borrow,” he said.
There is no similar impact on councils or ALMOs.
In February, former housing secretary Sajid Javid suggested creating a housing ombudsman position to help tenants and homeowners resolve disputes with landlords and builders.
McGoldrick said the NFA is preparing for proposals for a new regulator or ombudsman to form part of the Social Housing Green Paper, due this summer.
He said: “We are preparing ourselves for more regulation, particularly around resident engagement and complaints and redress and alike
“Local authorities and ALMOs feel very much outside of regulation. Housing associations know there is a regulator around, but I don’t think local authorities do.”
McGoldrick stressed he didn’t want a return to the “full-blown audit commission days,” but said a “lighter touch” would be welcomed with provision to send “seasoned professionals” in to housing providers to see any obvious problems.
The process could also include all housing providers producing annual reports, which include customer satisfaction scores and other data about their activities to address problems, he said.