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Viewpoint with Phil Morgan

Housing Regulation: Dead and Loving it?

The resident involvement specialist and industry commentator on the future of housing regulation

I remember those classic Hammer Dracula movies: Christopher Lee showing his fangs, Peter Cushing eventually tracking him down and ensuring the climax would be a stake through the heart, making sure that Dracula was no more with his ashes blown to the four corners of the globe. Until the next movie, when some witless sap would find themselves upside down dripping fresh blood onto those same ashes whence Dracula would, yet again, rise from the grave.

Over the past few months Grant Shapps has enjoyed playing the role of Van Helsing, hammering in that stake into the Tenant Services Authority. With each blow he mutters “the TSA is toast”, “pink camper van” and finally “one less quango”. He leans back replete in the knowledge that his mission has been successful. Or has it? Is housing regulation rising from the grave – and if so who’s providing the fresh blood for its reincarnation?

In my travels round to different housing organisations, tenants all express some concern about the demise of the TSA . There’s broad agreement that the regulatory framework was positive and that the TSA hadn’t really been given a chance to implement it successfully. Most prevalent is the view that the TSA is being taken over by the HCA, who in turn appear on conference agendas as authoritative speakers on housing regulation.

Yet the facts tell a somewhat different story. Firstly the TSA remains as now until 2012. It continues to regulate under the current regulatory framework. Although the constant hammering has left staff demoralised and unsure, they continue to carry out their roles diligently. In 2012 the TSA does indeed go into the body of the HCA and there will indeed be one less quango. Yet it does so as a totally independent statutory committee within the HCA, not answering for that role to any other part of the HCA. It continues its accountability to Parliament for its statutory duties. As now.

Likewise the basis on which it regulates remains the same. The rebadged housing regulator will regulate through a series of standards. For now this will remain the same standards as in the Regulatory Framework. Co-regulation, including the role of tenant scrutiny and local offers/standards, will continue and if anything will be deepened through changes to the Tenant Empowerment
Standard. A new, if incoherent, democratic filter will be introduced through further changes to that Standard. Likewise landlords will be compelled to sign up to a national mobility scheme.

Even now the TSA is consulting, somewhat bizarrely, on the announcements by Shapps and the HCA about affordable rents and flexible tenancies. Affordable rents will “only be allowed to landlords in HCA delivery schemes” and the housing regulator will need to sign these off to ensure financial viability. So whilst the TSA may eventually be dead, with a stake through its heart, housing regulation will indeed rise from its grave – regulating cross domain, through standards and implementing new Government policies. And its saviour – Grant Shapps!

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