Five key challenges: how Approved Housing Bodies are stepping up

Kathleen McKillion, Senior Associate Consultant at Campbell Tickell, details five key challenges in the Republic of Ireland’s housing sector and how Approved Housing Bodies (AHB)’s are overcoming them.

1. Regulation

The Regulation Office has now published all three Standards: Financial, Governance and recently, the Performance Standard, with assistance from Campbell Tickell. These will form part of statutory regulation for housing associations, which we understand is imminent following the Housing (Regulation of Approved Bodies) Bill being published on 26 July. The Dáil is now debating this Bill.

How will Approved Housing Bodies (AHBs) fare?

The largest Tier 3s are expected to be compliant with the Standards by the end of 2019, with a further year for Tier 2s and a further year for the smaller Tier 1s. It is important to have this independent regulation providing accountability to key stakeholders, including funders. However, it is equally important that regulation does not stifle innovation and it serves to stimulate increased housing delivery – which in our experience the sector is excelling in.

2. Reclassification

State control was a key factor in the reclassification of a number of Tier 3 bodies to ‘public bodies’ in 2017 and there seems to be no sign of this being reversed anytime soon – unlike in England and Scotland.

Instead the net is widening with some Tier 2 bodies now under the same spotlight. The reclassification matters as it seems likely it will affect funding and also risk appetite, leading to fewer homes being built. The Rebuilding Ireland delivery targets may well be impacted as a result. The sooner this decision is reversed the better.

3. Funding

Another key challenge for AHBs is the budgetary system in Ireland. Decisions often come late in the year and make planning and budgeting difficult. This uncertainty is exacerbated by the annual nature of revenue funding and also of project based funding for housing support.

This adversely affects how housing associations can maximise efforts to provide housing and support for formerly homeless, older people and those with disabilities. As well as this unpredictable funding, the capital funding stream under the Capital Assistance Scheme (CAS) would benefit from being further streamlined.

The more recent Capital Advance and Leasing Facility (CALF) and Payment and Availability (P&A) Agreement can deliver in weeks, when the circumstances are right. This model, which Campbell Tickell helped review earlier in the year, provides greater flexibility and certainty.

CALF delivers in the main towns and cities of Ireland where higher market rental yield makes it financially viable. However, it doesn’t yet deliver throughout Ireland. For instance, it can be used in Cork city but not in many parts of Cork county.

4. Training and Recruitment

There is a growing need for bespoke training for housing staff and for housing associations to develop their own staff for management development and succession planning purposes. Regrettably the Ulster University Housing Honours degree course that I and many other colleagues graduated from, ended.

In response to this demand, in June 2019 Campbell Tickell held two Risk and Assurance Masterclasses in Dublin and Belfast. Feedback has been positive and it was suggested that we should run more masterclasses – we will respond to that request. Campbell Tickell has a strong recruitment track record in the UK and has been successful in a number of key appointments in Ireland, starting with the Chief Executive of The Iveagh Trust.

5. Homes for housing staff

Lastly, an idea. On occasion, we have seen well-qualified and suitable job candidates citing the accommodation shortage and expense in Dublin as reason not to relocate. I didn’t have this issue after graduation, when I went to Scotland to work in the Housing Department of the New Town Development Corporation in Irvine. I was classed as an incoming key worker to which a number of allocations were made.

Is this something for housing associations in Ireland to consider, alongside their local authority colleagues? We have acknowledged the need for affordable homes and rents for nurses, garda, etc. Why not housing workers too?

 

To discuss this article, contact Kathleen McKillion: kathleen.mckillion@campbelltickell.com

This article is also featured in the latest CT Brief, Issue 45 – Ireland edition

Campbell Tickell is an established multi-disciplinary management and recruitment consultancy, operating across the UK and Ireland, focusing on the housing, social care, local government, sport, leisure, charity and voluntary sectors.

We are a values-based business and firmly place the positioning of our support and challenge on helping organisations to attain change that is well thought through, planned and sustainable. At CT, we want to help organisations create the landscape within which we ourselves would like to exist: fair, inclusive, diverse, engaged and transparent. We build from our values in how we approach all our work as a practice.

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