Call for evidence on the Housing (Amendment) (Scotland) Bill
The Housing (Amendment) (Scotland) Bill was introduced last week and now the local government and communities committee has requested to hear the thoughts of organisations and individuals on its general principles.
A review by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) in September last year reclassified Registered Social Landlords (RSLs) from the status of private sector bodies to public sector bodies. The revised status has implications for RSLs’ borrowing powers given that any borrowing by public bodies would count towards the Scottish Government’s borrowing limits.
Currently, RSLs decide how much money they need to borrow, however if their borrowing were to count towards public borrowing limits, then the Scottish Government may have to impose controls on RSL’s borrowing powers and there is a risk that it may affect the Scottish Government’s commitment to build 50,000 affordable homes.
The decision to reclassify RSLs as public bodies was taken by the ONS because of some powers of regulation that that the Scottish Housing Regulator (SHR) has over RSLs. With this Bill, the Scottish Government proposes some measures to reduce the SHR’s powers of regulation so as to influence the ONS to reclassify RSLs as private sector bodies, whilst maintaining a regulatory regime which will protect the interests of tenants.
The Bill proposes to reduce the powers the SHR has to:
- Appoint a manager to a RSL;
- Suspend, remove and appoint officers of a RSL;
- Exercise control over the disposal (e.g. a sale) of land and housing assets by a RSL (by requiring a RSL to obtain the Regulator’s consent to a disposal);
- Exercise consent over any changes to the constitution of a RSL;
- Exercise control over voluntary winding-up, dissolution and restructuring of a RSL (mainly by requiring a RSL to obtain the Regulator’s consent to these actions).
The Bill also provides for Scottish Ministers to modify the functions of the Regulator and to reduce local authority influence over RSLs in regulations.
In its invitation for written views, the local government and communities committee has asked respondents to address the following questions in relation to the aims of the Bill:
- Do you agree that measures should be taken to influence the ONS to reclassify RSLs as private sector bodies; and if not, please explain why?
- Do you have any views on the appropriateness of the measures proposed in this Bill to bring about this reclassification?
- Do you have views on whether the aims of the Bill could be achieved by other means?
- Any other issues relating to the Bill which you wish to bring to the attention of the Committee?
How to submit your evidence: Submissions should be limited to no more than six pages of A4. Responses should be sent, wherever possible, electronically and in MS Word format to LGCCommittee@parliament.scot.
The closing date for receipt of submissions is October 26.