The oversight of Approved Housing Bodies (AHBs) is currently conducted through the Voluntary Regulation Code (the Code), "Building for the Future, A Voluntary Regulation Code for Approved Housing Bodies in Ireland" underpinned by three standards - Financial, Governance and Performance. The Code is overseen by an Interim Regulatory Committee supported by a Regulation Office based in the Housing Agency.
The Regulation Office operates a risk-based approach to regulation. In line with pre-determined risk factors, the Regulation Office evaluates all approved housing bodies (AHBs) against these factors in order to prioritise its resources. This is a vital element in determining which AHBs are assessed in the annual assessment cycle.
In total, 109 regulatory returns were submitted in 2020. These consisted of 86 Annual Regulatory Returns and 23 Engagement Returns (issued to organisations already in Engagement with the Regulation Office). A further 177 AHBs which were not selected for assessment submitted a Charter of Commitment reaffirming their commitment to the Voluntary Regulatory Framework.
The Regulation Office is currently carrying out its assessment of the returns submitted for 2020. It is anticipated that this process will complete in April 2021. Where compliance issues have been identified, these are reported to each organisation individually in order that they may be addressed. If serious non-compliance issues are identified, the organisation may be entered into an Engagement process with the Regulation Office. Information on compliance issues identified in the previous regulatory assessment cycle is published in the Regulation Office’s 2019 Annual Report and Sectoral Analysis, available on the Housing Agency website. A similar analysis of the 2020 assessments will be published following completion of the current assessment cycle. The Regulation Office was contacted 76 times in 2020 in relation to Notifiable Events.
The transition from voluntary to statutory regulation for AHBs is well underway. The Approved Housing Bodies Regulatory Authority (AHBRA) was formally established on 1 February 2021 to oversee the effective governance, financial management and performance of all AHBs. It is anticipated that the AHBRA will become fully operational in 2022. This is to allow the Regulator sufficient time to determine its strategy and adopt the standards by which AHBs will be assessed. This process will involve consultation with relevant stakeholders.