Registered social landlords in Scotland have been reclassified as private organisations, following close liaison between the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations (SFHA) and the Scottish Government.
Confirmed by the Office of National Statistics (ONS), the change – under the Housing (Amendment) (Scotland) Act 2018 – effectively reverses the 2016 ONS ruling that classified registered social landlords (RSLs) as public for the purposes of the national accounts.
ONS has made similar decisions in England (November 2017) and Wales (August this year) to re-establish the sector as private in other parts of the UK.
Had the classification been allowed to stand, all future net borrowing by RSLs would have counted as Scottish Government expenditure.
SFHA chief executive Sally Thomas said such a scenario would have seen housing association assets and liabilities on the Scottish Government books – with the possibility of government control over any future housing association borrowing.
“This decision protects the independence of the sector, ensuring an environment where our members can maximise private finance in order to develop much needed affordable housing in Scotland alongside Scottish Government,” said Thomas.
The ONS review and related RSL assessment – completed in the context of international rules laid out in the European System of Accounts 2010 and the accompanying manual on Government Deficit and Debt 2016 – concluded RSLs in Scotland are “private, market producers”.
As such, RSLs will be reclassified to the private non-financial corporations sub-sector for the purpose of national accounts and other economic statistics.
This classification takes effect from September 19 this year, the date the regulations came into force.