Date set for ONS housing association classification decision

ONS-logoThe Office for National Statistics (ONS) is to announce its decision on the classification of housing associations in Scotland on September 29.

Registered social landlords (RSLs) north of the Border are currently regarded as private bodies for accounting purposes, though the classification is understood to be at risk because some of the powers of the Scottish Housing Regulator.

The ONS economic statistics classification committee is to decide whether to reclassify Scottish RSLs, alongside those in Wales and Northern Ireland, to the public sector as public corporations.

Each country’s case will be considered independently due to regulation variations.

Housing associations in England were reclassified as public non-financial corporations last year, adding an estimated £60 billion to the public sector net debt. The decision led the UK government to introduce deregulation and drop planned reforms in an attempt to reverse the decision.

In its Programme for Government earlier this month, the Scottish Government laid out plans to introduce a Housing (Amendment) (Scotland) Bill which will ensure registered social landlords (RSLs) continue to be classified as private sector bodies whatever the outcome.

In the event of a classification change, the Bill would provide the basis for the ONS to revisit its decision by removing the need for the Regulator’s consent to the disposal of assets by RSLs; limiting the Regulator’s ability to appoint members and managers to RSLs and removing the need for the Regulator’s consent to the restructuring, winding up and dissolution of RSLs.

Ashley Campbell, policy and practice manager, at CIH Scotland, said: “We welcome the Scottish Government’s proactive approach in making contingency plans within its legislative programme to be able to take swift action on reclassification of housing associations when and if required. We need to ensure that housing associations are able to continue providing homes and services that make a vital contribution to meeting housing need in Scotland. At the same time, it is important to ensure that the Scottish Housing Regulator has the powers it needs to protect the interests of tenants and to reassure the financial sector that affordable housing in Scotland is a safe investment.”

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