SFHA provides Social Housing Financial Resilience Forum update
The Social Housing Financial Resilience Forum met for the fourth time in early August to discuss the financial impact of the COVID-19 outbreak on the social housing sector.
Convened in April by the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations (SFHA), the group is made up of finance staff from six housing associations, Scottish Housing Regulator (SHR), Scottish Government and UK Finance.
Topics for discussion continue to include the situation in relation to lending, support available to the sector, the various data collection exercises being completed by the sector, rent arrears, flexibilities to SHR deadlines and discussions with Scottish Government on how the social housing sector can play a role in the economic recovery of the country.
The most recent meeting focussed on the SFHA data analysis which includes a report on its own data collection as well as that of SHR and HouseMark. The group approved the approach taken to utilise all available data to build a picture over the longer-term and track trends. This will be vital in order to evidence the true impact of the crisis on the sector to government and will help with efforts to secure any necessary support for members.
UK Finance, the body representing lenders, also welcomed the approach being taken and stated it offered further confidence in the sector as was demonstrating the level of attention being paid to the impact of the crisis by housing associations and the willingness to provide solutions.
SHR continued to inform the group at the monthly meetings of its view that housing associations have handled the crisis as well as anyone could have expected, and it remains confident in the sector’s ability to provide the homes and services tenants rely on.
Discussions have also been taking place on the possible extension of the Scottish Government’s emergency coronavirus legislation – which initially included a six-month ban on evictions from social and private sector rented accommodation – and its potential impact on the sector.
SFHA has since written to housing minister Kevin Stewart to ask that, as a minimum, evictions on the grounds of anti-social behaviour (ASB) need to be excluded from any extension as there are increasing and increasingly serious cases of ASB that are making other tenants’ and communities’ lives a misery and putting them in danger.
SFHA has also asked that, if the moratorium is extended, the Scottish Government provides increased financial support for tenants in/at risk of arrears. SFHA has also called for clear national messaging which states this is not a ‘rent holiday’ and outlines the importance of paying rent by tenants who can do so.
The group will meet again in late September when the SFHA’s next data report will be discussed and early conversations on what support the sector might require from the government can begin.