May meeting: Social housing associations

Published on: May 9, 2013

Tonight’s meeting will be hosted by Donal McManus, the executive director at the Irish Council for Social Housing. He’s giving a talk about how social housing policy and bodies affect apartment complexes. There’s no formal presentation so I’ll cover as much as possible here.

-o-

About 27,000 homes are managed by members of the ICSH today. Most of the stock managed by them are custom built blocks although the legislation changes in 2000, more and more form part of multi unit developments. This legislation compelled developers to make available a percentage of all units available to social housing associations at a reduced price.

Several major shifts are happening:

  • Local authorities moving away from being the primary supplier and manager of social housing. Housing bodies are taking over
  • Those bodies used to be 100% state funded but are now seeking some of their funding from the HFA (as a loan) or from banks.
  • Major regulation changes coming into effect. Social housing tenants will be covered by PRTB and the bodies themselves will be regulated.

The way associations and OMCs interact will differ. Some will offer themselves for election to the board of directors and be heavily involved, others will attend just AGMs and the same way as any other interested owner. Their level of involvement depends not only on their own opinions about how the OMC is run but also on their staffing numbers.

There is no obligation on HAs to offer their staff for election to the board of directors. It was suggested that HAs that own a significant number of units in a single complex should be encouraged to do so by the ICSH.

Each association appoints a Housing Officer who is responsible for all housing authority projects in a particular area. This person should be the OMC or Managing Agents point of contact for any issues. In return, housing association tenants will contact the HO who will pass on any questions or concerns to the OMC or MA.

It is recommend that OMC directors approach the Housing Officer early when dealing with any problems rather than leaving them to fester. Generally the HO will try to fix the problem quickly.

In some cases, complexities may arise. For example, the local authority may retain ownership of the apartments but assign the housing association as manager for those units. The OMC should still deal with the HA as point of contact but service charges will probably be paid by the local authority.

In other cases, the HA may own a very large percentage of the units in the complex and decide to tender themselves as managing agent. In a very small number of cases, this happens without the agreement of the owners. This was raised as an issue which needs to be discussed in more detail later.

It was also discussed that some housing associations prefer to buy blocks of apartments located together. It was suggested that this could create a ghetto inside an estate and should be avoided. In some cases this is unavoidable because the developer built their S&A units together in one block.

Most housing associations will conduct due diligence before taking ownership of units in a complex. This may include checking the financial situation of the OMC or checking that vesting has taken place. The later is generally a requirement of the bank providing the financing for the purchase.

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