Housing association

In Ireland and the United Kingdom, housing associations are private, non-profit making organisations that provide low-cost "social housing" for people in need of a home. Any budget surplus is used to maintain existing housing and to help finance new homes and it cannot be used for personal benefit of directors or shareholders. Although independent, they are regulated by the state and commonly receive public funding. They are now the United Kingdom's major providers of new housing for rent, while many also run shared ownership schemes to help those who cannot afford to buy a home outright.

In Australia, the term "housing association" refers to larger, growth oriented 'not-for-dividend' community housing providers. Smaller community housing providers may include trusts, cooperatives etc. State and Territory owned public housing represents about 80% of social housing in Australia. Over the years these public housing entities have had different names including 'housing commissions', 'housing trusts' etc.

They increased in importance over the last decades of the twentieth century due to changes to council housing brought in by the Thatcher government, when rules were introduced that prevented councils subsidising their housing from local taxes, channelled grants for construction of new social housing to housing associations and allowed council tenants to buy their homes at a large discount. This, combined with cost-cutting initiatives in local government and a housing benefit scheme that was more generous to housing associations than local authorities, led to many councils transferring their housing stock to housing associations. These organisations are often referred to as large-scale voluntary transfer organisations or local housing companies.

Registered social landlord (RSL) is the technical name for social landlords that in England were formerly registered with the Housing Corporation, or in Wales with the Welsh Government. From 2010 to 2012, associations were termed registered providers under the Housing and Regeneration Act 2008, irrespective of status (private, public, for-profit or not-for-profit). As of 2012, the terms registered social landlord and private registered providers of social housing are both used as alternative names for housing association.

Subsequently, the English High Court in Weaver v. London and Quadrant Housing Trust [2008] ruled that housing associations were public authorities and as a result could be subject to judicial review in certain circumstances. The court stated that the housing association sector was 'permeated by state control and influence with a view to meeting the Government's aims for affordable housing, and in which RSLs work side by side with, and can in a very real sense be said to take the place of, local authorities'.

A feature of housing associations is that, although the larger housing associations usually have paid staff, a committee or board of management made up of volunteers, or paid non-executive members, has overall responsibility for the work of the organisation. A board might include residents, representatives from local authorities and community groups, business people and politicians. There are more than 30,000 voluntary board members running housing associations throughout England.

Housing associations borrow money to pay for new homes and improvements. After the Housing Act 1988, the proportion of the cost of new homes met by capital grant was scaled back by the Government, so borrowing became the primary source of funding for investment. Much of this was simply borrowed from banks and building societies, but after the late-2000s financial crisis these institutions ceased to offer long-term loans, so developing associations are increasingly turning to corporate bonds to raise funds for expansion.

The NHF (formerly the National Federation of Housing Associations) claimed that at the start of 2003 they had around 1400 non-profit housing organisations in their membership, owning or managing approximately 1.8 million homes across England.

 

 


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