Friday, 6 September 2019

Questions (1940)

James Browne

Question:

1940. Deputy James Browne asked the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government the position regarding the approved list of charitable housing bodies that apply for funding towards building homes for qualifying persons; the way in which this list is compiled; if monitoring of activities takes place; if local authorities have a role in monitoring the housing bodies activities; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35013/19]

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Written answers (Question to Housing)

In order to be eligible for funding for the construction of social housing, housing bodies must be registered as Approved Housing Bodies (AHBs) in accordance with Section 6 of the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1992.

To become an AHB, the body must comply with a range of criteria including that it is an independent, not-for-profit organisation. Details on how to apply for approved status along with a list of existing AHBs can be found on my Department's website at the following link:

www.housing.gov.ie/housing/social-housing/voluntary-and-cooperative-housing/approved-housing-bodies-AHBs.

AHBs are, by definition, non-profit, independent legal entities with independent governance structures. Each AHB must have a properly functioning governing body, or board of directors/trustees, which is directly responsible for the commissioning of housing projects and services, the ownership, management and maintenance of dwellings and compliance with all statutory regulations.

The oversight of AHBs is currently conducted through the Voluntary Regulation Code (VRC), Building for the Future, A Voluntary Regulation Code for Approved Housing Bodies in Ireland. The VRC is overseen by the Interim Regulation Committee (IRC), based in the Housing Agency.

Since the Code was put in place, any AHB applying for housing funding from my Department and local authorities must furnish proof of compliance with the Voluntary Code. Since January 2017, only those AHBs that have undergone a satisfactory assessment as part of the annual assessment process by the Regulation Office are considered eligible for funding for the provision of social housing.

All funding to AHBs is provided via the local authorities as the latter are the statutory housing authorities for their areas. All social housing provision in each area, including by AHBs, must be provided with the approval and oversight of the local authorities. The local authority determines whether an AHB project is to be approved or not, based on housing need and suitability of the proposed development. The AHB enters into a contract with the local authority and must abide by the terms and conditions of the relevant scheme.

The Housing (Regulation of Approved Housing Bodies) Bill 2019 was published on 30 July 2019. The Bill provides for the establishment of an independent Approved Housing Bodies Regulatory Authority, enhancing the regulation of AHBs for the purposes of supporting stronger governance and the financial viability of the sector, with a particular focus on safeguarding the significant public investment being made in the delivery of social housing by AHBs. Similarly, the Bill will provide assurance to tenants, the public and potential investors that the sector is well regulated.