The Government's Housing Policy Statement, published in June 2011, identifies approved housing bodies (AHBs) as key partners in the delivery of social housing. This recognises both the constrained funding levels available for local authority construction programmes and the capacity and track-record of the voluntary and cooperative housing sector.
The sector is a significant provider of social housing for persons with specific categories of need. The Capital Assistance Scheme (CAS) has provided a significant proportion of the capital for the provision of these units within the overall funding available for my Department's Social Housing Investment Programme.
Section 6 of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 1992, enables housing authorities to provide assistance to approved housing bodies in respect of the provision of housing. Departmental funding is only available to those bodies that have been granted approved status for the provision of housing. In this context, my Department's Memorandum VHU: 2/02 of May 2002 provides guidance to approved housing bodies in relation to governance procedures and the capital funding schemes.
Under CAS, funding of up to 100% of the approved cost is available to approved housing bodies for the provision of accommodation for older people, people with an intellectual, physical or mental health disability, the homeless, returning emigrants and victims of domestic violence. The administration of the scheme, including the detailed appraisal of new projects and the certification that proposals comply with the terms and conditions of the scheme, is the responsibility of the relevant housing authority.
Funding is allocated to housing authorities on an annual basis under the Social Housing Investment Programme and includes a provision to meet existing commitments for projects that are underway under CAS.
The move from capital funded programmes of construction and acquisition by approved housing bodies to more revenue funded options presents challenges for them. As such, I intend to develop an enabling regulatory framework for the sector that will provide support and assurance both to the sector itself and to its external partners as it takes on the expanded role envisaged for it in the policy statement and to underline its status as a viable and attractive investment opportunity for financial institutions.
I will develop this framework in consultation with the sector but I expect that it will:
assist approved housing bodies to develop key governance and management structures to facilitate an expanded remit;
provide independent scrutiny and validation of such bodies' competences; and
place sustainable housing management policies and practices at the heart of a coordinated approach to the development of the sector.
The development of such a regulatory framework which is both robust and harmonised with the varying capacities of individual AHBs will take some time. In the interim my Department is actively working with the sector on the development of a voluntary code which I expect most bodies will endorse. This code, which should be finalised and agreed in the coming weeks, will serve as a learning opportunity for the sector and for my Department as we develop a longer-term statutory framework that will best support the enhanced role of AHBs.
I expect that the code will set out, inter alia, key basic principles of good governance and financial management and also the range of reporting obligations that currently apply to the sector.