The Approved Housing Bodies Regulatory Authority (AHBRA) was established on 1 February 2021 by the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage (DHLGH), Darragh O’Brien TD.
AHBRA was established to oversee the effective governance, financial management and performance of all voluntary and co-operative housing bodies, in accordance with the legal framework set out in the Housing (Regulation of Approved Housing Bodies) Act 2019 (the Act).
The powers and functions of AHBRA will be commenced on a phased basis throughout 2021 and 2022, with AHBRA anticipated to become operational in early 2022.
The Minister appointed nine-members to the board of the AHBRA in February 2021, with Edward Lewis appointed as Chairperson.
The remaining eight Board members are named below:
The board members have extensive experience in housing, finance, law, and governance and were appointed following a process conducted by the Public Appointments Service. Detailed biographies of all board members are available on the AHBRA website www.ahbregulator.ie.
Susanna Lyons was appointed as CEO of AHBRA by the Minister on establishment day.
Regulatory functions of AHBRA
The Regulator will have responsibility for establishing and maintaining a register of approved housing bodies (AHBs), preparing standards by which AHBs will be monitored and assessed, and encouraging and facilitating the better governance, administration, and management, including corporate governance and financial management of AHBs. The Regulator will also have powers to carry out investigations and cancel the registration of AHBs. These functions will be introduced on a phased basis and the sector will be informed accordingly.
Key deliverables for 2021
The year 2021 is seen largely as an implementation and build period, with AHBRA anticipated to be operational in 2022.
A key function of the newly established AHBRA is to promote awareness and understanding of the Act. A new website will be launched shortly and will provide useful information and guidance for the sector. A series of webinars for AHBs are planned, to provide further information on the role of the new Regulator and the requirements for AHBs. AHBRA recently issued an FAQ document that provides information about the AHBRA and the Act. Further information will also be posted on social media and AHBs are recommended to connect on LinkedIn and Twitter (@AHBregulator).
All AHBs are strongly encouraged to join the mailing list to receive AHBRA information and invites to educational webinars by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
A strategy statement is anticipated to be submitted to the Minister for approval in August 2021. The strategy statement will set out the mission, vision, and values of the AHBRA, together with its strategic objectives over the next three years.
The Register of Approved Housing Bodies
An important function for the new statutory regulator will be to establish and maintain an AHB register. All AHBs will initially be deemed as registered once the relevant sections of the legislation have been commenced. This means that each AHB will be subject to all aspects of the regulatory requirements.
Additionally, AHBs will then be required to apply to register with AHBRA on a phased basis dependent on their size. AHB boards should familiarise themselves with the registration process, including the criteria for registration, as laid out in the legislation.
The Standards for Approved Housing Bodies
A new set of draft Standards will be published which will cover matters relating to corporate governance, financial management and reporting, property and asset management and tenancy management. It is anticipated that “preparation of the draft Standards” will be commenced in early summer 2021. In accordance with the Act, AHBRA must prepare and submit draft standards to the Minister for approval.
“AHBRA particularly encourages AHBs who did not engage with the voluntary environment to actively participate in the guidance and education forums in 2021.”
AHBRA will communicate with key stakeholders when the commencement of this section of the Act has been initiated. The regulator will publish the draft Standards on its website to allow for representations to be made over a 28-day period. AHBRA will pro-actively engage with key stakeholders to ensure appropriate representations are facilitated. AHBRA will consider all representations and may amend the draft Standards before they are submitted to the Minister.
How to prepare your Approved Housing Body
AHB boards are actively encouraged to familiarise themselves with the Housing (Regulation of Approved Housing Bodies) Act 2019 and the key requirements outlined within the Act. Understanding these requirements should be an essential objective for all AHBs during 2021.
Whilst the powers and functions of AHBRA will be commenced on a phased basis, it is crucial for AHBs to be prepared for regulation. All AHBs are encouraged to review all materials released by the AHBRA in the coming months and participate in webinars that will be hosted by the AHBRA throughout 2021.
A number of AHBs did not engage with the voluntary environment and therefore will be less familiar with the impacts of regulation on their organisations. AHBRA particularly encourages those organisations to contact the AHBRA to ensure they have access to all relevant communications and events that will be held by AHBRA in 2021.
AHBRA will continue to roll-out a series of communications to the entire AHB Sector relating to the powers, functions, and deliverables of the Approved Housing Bodies Regulatory Authority.
The Act: The Housing (Regulation of Approved Housing Bodies) Act 2019
Join the AHBRA mailing list to receive updates, information and invites to educational events.