We were pleased to welcome 40 housing sector professionals at the recent Breakfast Seminar with Julian Ashby, Social Housing Regulator, England.
The seminar gave an opportunity for Julian to share his knowledge on England’s approach to regulation of the social housing industry.  He talked about  how to build the resilience of housing providers in a changing market, whilst also helping delegates glean any application in our current Australian environment through an interactive question and answer session.

Julian offered an inspiring insight into how the social housing sector has evolved in England, including a flavour of the highs and lows of the 1500 social housing providers that come in all shapes and sizes and how they have fared in a challenging and rapidly changing environment.

Our guest speaker also outlined the form of social housing regulation throughout its 40 years in England, including its recent shift away from assessing the service to the tenant. Julian explained  how the regulatory approach has changed in the context of providers running substantial  commercial operations, alongside their social housing activities. Accompanying this is the requirement for Board skill-sets to mirror key business activities, for example, overseeing large development programs, or taking on high care services such as nursing homes.

Delegates quickly became aware of key differences between the Community Housing Sector in Queensland and England. This  included the size of social housing providers – ‘small’ is defined as organisations with stock of 100 or less – and number of providers, where there are around 1,500 providers, or which approximately 300 are large providers. Another difference was the lending environment in the UK and the primary funding environment in Queensland. Julian outlined the regulator’s role in giving assurance to lenders, enabling borrowing on extremely cheap terms which,  coupled with the asset leverage enabled through asset ownership, has positioned the UK social housing sector for massive growth over the last 30 years.

Through the discussion similarities on how CHPs operate here and in the UK could also be gleaned in core service delivery and key requirements for regulation. Examples of this are the importance of a suitably skilled Board, shared challenges including housing demand outstripping supply, the reliance on welfare benefits as the primary income stream and the risks associated with this,  an environment requiring delivery of more with less. Julian was able to outline the benefits of the application of financial stress testing to help housing providers and Regulators foresee risks and anticipate the effect on an organisation’s viability if a combination of certain circumstances occur.

The benefit of regulation in the UK can be understood by the Regulator’s 100% record of continuing provision of social housing and service delivery to tenants in circumstances where individual organisations have failed, through reasons such as overstretching or misjudgement. The regulator has achieved this by facilitating transfer of stock and services to other organisations and ensuring lenders have not lost money.

Q Shelter and CHPs for QLD jointly hosted the event which was also sponsored by BHC.

More information can be found at https://www.gov.uk/housing/regulation