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  4. Proposals to seek reversal of the reclassification of registered Social Housing providers in Northern Ireland

Proposals to seek reversal of the reclassification of registered Social Housing providers in Northern Ireland

Last updated: 8 Feb 2017

Consulting body:
Department for Communities in Northern Ireland
Period of consultation:
Runs from 8 December 2016 to 8 February 2017
CML action:
Response submitted

This consultation is on the Department for Communities proposals to amend current housing legislation and policy so as to facilitate a reversal of the recent Office for National Statistics (ONS) decision to classify Registered Social Housing Providers in Northern Ireland as public sector bodies.

The consultation also provides information on the decision by ONS and why this needs to be reversed. The consultation sets out the areas of legislation that are affected and offers proposals for consideration.

There are a range of options for some of the changes while others have a straight forward solution.

CML response 

The 29 September 2016 ONS decision applies to the RSL sectors not only in Northern Ireland but also to the sectors in Scotland and Wales. It mirrors the earlier ONS decision for English RSLs that were reclassified in the same way in August 2015.

The CML and lenders are working with regulators and officials in the UK’s devolved nations as they develop their respective proposals to recalibrate the extent of government/ regulatory control over their RSL sectors.

We expect legislative changes for Northern Ireland to be consistent with the changes already taken in relation to the powers of the social housing regulator in England. This consistency is needed because funders to the sector operate on a UK-wide basis, and any difference in approach among the constituent nations would cut-across funders’ ability to assess and price for risk in a consistent way.

Effective, robust, proportionate and well resourced regulation, backed by appropriate and effective intervention powers, is essential to maintaining the confidence of funders in the RSL sector in Northern Ireland. Effective regulation is therefore key to ensuring RSLs continue to be able to access the private finance they need to develop, on attractive terms.

While we recognise the need for legislative changes to reduce the level of government control and influence over RSL businesses, we would not want to see existing key powers removed or reformed to such an extent that the regulator could no longer intervene effectively.

We expect to see legislative changes that strike the right balance between addressing the points identified by the ONS and retaining sufficient regulatory ability to intervene and act when necessary. Effective intervention powers will need to continue in the reformed regulatory regime in order to protect public and private investment, tenants and the wider reputation of the RSL sector from contagion in the event of the failure of an individual association.

Read the full CML response below.