Step change

Ireland’s journey towards statutory regulation for Approved Housing Bodies


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Stella McKervey

AHB Policy & Regulation Section, Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage

In July 2013 the then Department of Environment, Community and Local Government published Building for the Future - A Voluntary Regulation Code for Approved Housing Bodies in Ireland. This document outlined the building blocks of a statutory regulatory system and established the Voluntary Regulation Code – this code was an essential stepping stone to a legally binding statutory regulatory framework.

Six years on, and with quite a few steps taken in the intervening years, the then named Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government guided the Housing (Regulation of Approved Housing Bodies) Act 2019 through the legislative process. The Act was signed into law on 23 December 2019 and provides for the establishment of a statutory regulator: the Approved Housing Bodies Regulatory Authority. In essence, this body will be responsible for overseeing the effective governance, financial management and performance of voluntary and co-operative housing bodies, in accordance with the legal framework set out in the Act.

Taking a further few steps into 2020 (and another Departmental name change!) the now Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage is advancing the preparatory work to ensure the regulator can be established and operational as soon as possible.

New regulatory framework

Throughout the many name changes of the Department, the focus has remained consistent - to bring into reality the legally binding framework, envisaged back in 2013. So, what is in this legal framework?

In summary, the legal framework aims to safeguard public and private investment in the social housing provision sector, to enable increased supply from the voluntary and co-operative housing sector and to ensure that the assets built through investments in the sector are managed sustainably. The framework will provide further assurances to investors, tenants, the government and to the sector itself that social housing providers operate in a well-regulated and stable environment.

Until such time as the statutory system of regulation is up and running, the voluntary regulatory arrangements, which have served the sector so well, will continue. Several key steps are now being put in place such as the appointment of a CEO and establishing a board of the regulator – this will ensure that the new regulator can be formally established early in 2021.

After the regulator is formally established, considerable work will be required to meet an ambitious operational target of early 2022. New standards will have to be prepared and published and the registration process put in place – all of this will have to be in place before assessments can be carried out. Consultation with AHBs in the preparation of the new standards will be a key focus of the regulator in its first year.

“Until such time as the statutory system of regulation is up and running, the voluntary regulatory arrangements, which have served the sector so well, will continue”

A time of change... for the better

The Department fully understands that this may be a time of significant change for many Approved Housing Bodies. In order to assist organisations in understanding how the move to statutory regulation will impact them – including the application of new standards and the registration process – the Department has prepared a (FAQ) guide.

As part of the preparations, the Department is reviewing its existing register of AHBs and is contacting all organisations listed on that register in order to ascertain if they are still trading and wish to continue as AHBs. If they are not trading, or no longer wish to remain registered as AHBs, then a process is in place by which these organisation can apply to rescind their AHB status. (Read more about the rescinding of AHB status application process here).

It is important to note that all organisations that remain registered will come under the statutory framework in due course – unlike the voluntary code, there will be no opt-out!


Rising to challenges

We acknowledge this may pose challenges for some AHBs. However, there are a number of options available to consider when planning for the future. These can include group structures, partnering with other like-minded organisations in the area perhaps, or housing stock transfer. Before proceeding with any of these activities, we do advise that AHBs contact the relevant local authority to discuss their intentions and seek approval, if necessary, for any course of action, e.g. stock transfer.

The Department would like to thank all of those who have engaged in the process to date. The support of The Irish Council for Social Housing (ICSH) has been instrumental. Recently, the ICSH hosted a webinar, which gave the Department an opportunity to reach a wide audience of AHB board members and staff at all tier levels, across the country, providing an overview of the regulatory framework and the preparatory work being undertaken. The webinar is an important resource and a recording is available here for viewing.


As ever, the Department will be happy to hear from individual organisations that might have queries at this time. If so, please get in touch at

To discuss this article, email Greg Campbell or Kathleen Mckillion, or phone Kathleen on +353 (0)86 3369410

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