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Regulating housing bodies

 

The Housing Agency has been given the responsibility, on an interim basis, for regulating Approved Housing Bodies. A Regulation Office has been established to support this work and reports to an interim Regulatory Committee appointed by the Minister. Head of Regulation Susanna Lyons outlines her new role and the work of the office.

I’ve spent 24 years working in both industry and banking. The last 10 years of my commercial career was spent with GE Capital EMEA, where I worked in a variety of roles. I was looking for a change of career and I got an opportunity to join the Housing Agency, Regulation Office. My background is in finance, risk, governance and in implementing regulatory frameworks across Europe, mainly on the back of EU directives. I believe it’s a good fit for the Regulation Office.

I joined the Regulation Office just over a year ago. My focus has been on the Governance of the AHBs and applying a risk-based approach to the assessment of the organisations that are signed up to the Voluntary Regulatory Code. I am excited about the new role and look forward to building on the work achieved to date.

There has been a phenomenal amount achieved over the last three years by the AHBs, and the Regulation Office is cognisant of the amount of work they have done. Currently, we have over 240 AHBs signed up to the Voluntary Regulatory Code, representing over 90 per cent of the housing stock in this sector.

In 2016, the Rebuilding Ireland Action Plan for Housing and Homelessness reiterated the importance of AHBs within the overall objective of increasing the level and speed of delivery of social housing and other State supported housing with funding of €5.35 billion to support the delivery of 47,000 units by 2021.

There’s a significant growth challenge for the developing AHBs, including increasing risk profiles and organisations continue to strengthen their infrastructure, governance, financial management and performance management within this growth environment. Regulation remains a critical step to support the provision and delivery of these homes, accompanied by capacity-building, increased private funding and new financing models to meet the ambitious targets.

From a regulatory perspective we need to be confident that growth is achieved in a sustainable manner. Regulation provides safeguards that are important at all times, but never more so than in a challenging and changing environment. The Regulation Office is mindful of emerging priorities while remaining focused on the oversight and assurance of AHBs and safeguarding of tenants, assets and investment. Experience elsewhere has shown that robust and effective regulation can foster confidence in the sector and create an environment that encourages growth and innovation.

The Regulation Office will continue to robustly regulate the governance, financial viability and performance management of AHBs, under the existing regulatory framework. It will continue to develop the framework by continuing to roll out the Financial Standard and introducing a Governance Standard and Assessment Framework in 2017. In line with the principles of the Code, this work will be underpinned by a collaborative approach with AHBs and other stakeholders.

The Regulation Office is preparing for the transition from the Voluntary Regulatory Code to statutory regulation. This will be informed by current processes and experience, but will also require the development of new approaches. We will support the Department in effecting a new statutory regulator for AHBs and ensuring that regulation continues effectively and efficiently while the new structures and processes are being established.

The Regulation Office will continue to build relationships with its key stakeholders such as lenders, the Housing Finance Agency, the Irish Council for Social Housing (ICSH), local authorities and the Health Services Executive (HSE), Charities Regulatory Authority, Revenue and HIQA.

Contact:

Susanna Lyons

The Housing Agency

53 Mount Street Upper

Dublin 2, D02 KT73

Tel: 01 656 4100