Opinion: Give the HCA a new role
Published by Max Salsbury for 24dash.com in Central Government and also in Housing, Regulation
'What's in the box?'
By Alistair McIntosh
The spate of HCA downgrades sends a worrying message.
They tore strips out of associations that are trying to innovate in the north. But we have to remember it’s a tough market for them.
Tenants have seen their incomes cut and communities need support. In parts of the north it’s a grim choice for landlords. You can cut to the bone or try and trade your way out. If you do the former are you still making a difference to the local area?
Trading means taking risks and you can lose money. Trying to trade your way out of problems in a depressed market is doubly difficult. This is notLondon. You can’t raise millions by selling off one house. Let’s face it some associations in the right places could be nine below zero for governance and still be making plenty of money.
Asset values keep on rising no matter what. On the other hand the right folk can cock it up in any circumstances.
I don’t deny that some associations in the north have made mistakes. If you make losses you must take the consequences. That’s fine. But what message do these judgements send? Is it an official order to stop innovating and play safe? What sort of associations does the HCA want to see? Can a regulator based in London really get to grips with other tougher markets?
If the world stays as it is we will see more mistakes. Some associations will do too much but some won’t do enough. A cigarette paper will be all that separates them from the PRS.
It’s easy to batter the associations that get it wrong. I don’t see how that helps anyone. We know all about the problems that affect large parts of the country. The government boxed the HCA into a corner. Why not give the HCA a better role. Wise people work there so get a few more with hands on experience of tough markets.
Then they could be helping to prevent problems in the north instead of just reporting on them.
Alistair McIntosh is chief executive of the Housing Quality Network.