Finance, governance, performance: setting standards

Neil Bolton , Associate consultant at Campbell Tickell, outlines guidance to Approved Housing Bodies from Ireland’s Housing Agency.

Since its creation in 2014, Ireland’s Housing Agency Regulation Office has worked with the Approved Housing Body (AHB) sector to develop a suite of standards that underpins its approach to regulation.

After publishing the Finance Standard in 2015 and the Governance Standard in 2017, the third and final pillar was the Performance Standard, published in December 2018. Campbell Tickell supported the Regulation Office in developing all three standards. So, what guidance can we offer AHBs on the regulator’s approach?

Opportunity for improvement: Arguably, the Performance Standard introduces the widest range of requirements, building on many of the existing requirements that were contained in the original Voluntary Regulatory Code (VRC). Far from being a ‘tick-box’ exercise, the Performance Standard is an opportunity to challenge current policies and practices and to develop new and better ways of working. It should also be a means of ensuring that operations are aligned with the vision and strategic direction of the organisation. The standard itself is divided into the three core areas of People, Property and Performance, reflecting the core disciplines of all AHBs.

1. People

The Performance StandardContinuous improvement is a theme throughout the standard. There are real opportunities to radically transform services using the standard as a framework for improvement – particularly in tenant engagement and asset management. Whereas the VRC requirement was more transactional in terms of people and property, the new standard asks bigger questions.

As well as the basic requirements of transparency and accountability, AHBs should ask themselves how they can engage with their tenants to help improve services, increase satisfaction and help improve value for money. As service users, tenants have invaluable insight that may not be immediately obvious to the AHB – how do you capture and best use this?

 

2. Property

AHBs are now developing their first asset management strategies. For many, this is a new discipline. In developing this approach, there is an opportunity to review their current services and to consult tenants to identify their key priorities. The starting point should always be to consider asset management in the context of the organisation’s wider strategic aims and mission: what part will asset management play in delivering the vision? The asset management strategy will represent a substantial journey for even the most advanced AHB, offering a route map with agreed priorities embraced by the whole business.

3. Performance

Compliance is another strong theme, particularly in ensuring tenants’ health and safety. We are all too aware of the potentially tragic outcomes of compliance failures. Robust policies and procedures must be in place and demonstrated through consistent practice. Whereas the Performance Standard applies to all AHBs, there are elements of proportionality. The performance element of the standard in particular distinguishes developing AHBs from others. The Regulation Office wants a thriving, growing sector, but the unprecedented current planned increase in house-building must be sustainable.

Evidence of impact assessments across all parts of the organisation is key to ensuring an AHB can grow while still improving services for existing tenants. Poor performance in areas such as void turnaround times will only be amplified through growth, unless specifically addressed. With a diverse sector, there will be no ‘one-size-fits-all’ response to the new Performance Standard. Although there are core baseline requirements, there are still opportunities for AHBs to embrace the standard and shape their services to meet their own unique needs and ambitions.

Neil Bolton is part of the Campbell Tickell team that developed the Performance Standard for the Housing Agency Regulation Office.

This article also appears in CT Brief-43

To find out more, contact Jon Slade : jon.slade@campbelltickell.com

 



Finance, governance, performance: setting standards

Neil Bolton , Associate consultant at Campbell Tickell, outlines guidance to Approved Housing Bodies from Ireland's Housing Agency.


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