NHF Finance: Regulator calls on associations to be ‘open and honest’

Conference told of a “need” now for housing associations to be transparent.



Speaking at the National Housing Federation’s Finance Conference, Jonathan Walters, Deputy Director, Strategy and Performance at the Regulator of Social Housing, said there was now a need for associations to be open.

He said: “Being open and honest about what you want to achieve and how you are doing it is so important for the sector.

“Associations don’t always need to be top of the metrics boards because that is how people lose trust.

“You can’t be perfect on everything. Sometimes you have got to say, ‘we didn’t do as well on this as we wanted but here is how we are going to improve.'”

Walters added that accountability was important going forward.

“One of the things that as the sector gets bigger it needs to do is to take local stakeholders with you – that is imperative.

“One thing that drives MPs nuts is when associations are not accountable to councillors or stakeholders. They don’t do a good job of saying they are accountable to the regulator.

“I don’t think anyone should underestimate how much central government and its partner agencies are looking for housing associations to build to hit their 300,000 homes target.

“From a cash strapped central government you can see why, with the surpluses of housing associations, they would want a shoulder to the wheel on development.”

Walters also touched on what the regulator and the sector will be grappling with going forward.

“The sector has seen benign tail winds in the past five/10 years. In that context we have seen associations get it wrong and have to merge, etc. If conditions get worse, there needs to be awareness of that.

“It is the organisations with 15k+ homes operating like the big associations that keep up at night. Rescuing a 20,000 organisation is not going to be an easy sell,” he said.