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MSPs back social housing regulator changes

1 February 2018

 Holyrood's Local Government & Communities Committee has supported the general principles of the Housing (Amendment) (Scotland) Bill in its stage 1 report published today.

The bill is intended to pave the way for the Office for National Statistics to reclassify registered social landlords (RSLs) back to the private sector in the UK national accounts. The ONS recently decided that they should be treated as public bodies because of the degree of control that the Scottish Housing Regulator over the management and constitutional changes of RSLs, but postponed further action to allow the Scottish Government to review the position.

Under the bill the regulator's powers would be reduced with a view to achieving reclassification of RSLs as private bodies. As such, any borrowing undertaken by RSLs would not count against national limits on borrowing.

The bill would:

  • narrow the powers of the regulator to appoint a manager to an RSL, and to remove, suspend and appoint officers;
  • remove the need for the Regulator's consent to: the disposal of land and housing assets by an RSL; any changes to the constitution of an RSL; and the voluntary winding-up, dissolution and restructuring of an RSL, while protecting tenants' rights to be consulted about certain changes;
  • provide ministers with regulation making powers to limit the influence that a local authority has over an RSL.

Most of the changes are achieved through amendments to the Housing (Scotland Act) 2010. The bill also provides regulation-making powers to allow Scottish ministers to reduce or limit powers which local authorities have over RSLs which may also contribute to reclassification.

In its report the committee said it was "broadly content" with its proposals, but outlined some potential issues with the bill for the Government to consider. Convener Bob Doris MSP explained: "Our committee agrees that measures need to be taken to reclassify RSLs as private bodies, and it’s crucial that borrowing and building can continue at pace to ensure that the Scottish Government delivers 50,000 affordable homes.

"While we were broadly content with the bill, and we agree with its general principles, we do recognise that the removal of these consent powers may impact previous safeguards.

"That’s why we seek confirmation from the Scottish Government on how it will work together with the regulator and social housing sector to ensure that there are no negative impacts as a result of this reclassification."

Click here to access the committee's report.

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