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Opinion: How the HCA can avoid the domino effect

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Opinion: How the HCA can avoid the domino effect

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Published by Max Salsbury for 24dash.com in Housing and also in Central Government, Regulation

Opinion: How the HCA can avoid the domino effect Opinion: How the HCA can avoid the domino effect

By Alistair McIntosh, chief executive, Housing Quality Network

The HCA has lots of good ideas to make regulation work better. You can also say the same about the Altair report into the goings on at Cosmopolitan. But we need to step into the modern world.

We are all trying to use social media and big data in better ways. Why do we never think about this when we look at regulation? If the HCA got real time data on finance and performance, it could nip problems in the bud.

The DWP says that our residents must do things online quickly. So why do we rely on the annual operating and financial review? It makes all of us look slack.

Can we really say that it is OK to publish the Global Accounts for 2014 in the spring of 2015? If it was any more out of date we could put it next to the Magna Carta at Runnymede.

So my first point is that the HCA needs to get its hands on data quicker and act on it. It is in all our interests to make this happen. The next association to go kaput could be the domino that knocks the others over.

Now I want to turn to the tools that the regulator wants to use. You have two ways to go here. The HCA could stimulate competition to sharpen up the existing players or it can stiffen the rules to make life tougher for them.

There is no doubt what route the HCA is taking. It looks like Owen Jones wrote their rules to hold the private sector at bay. This could be the right decision. The private sector has not covered itself in glory in many walks of life. But do we know if this is good news for the existing players?

The CLG will keep demanding that the HCA uses its powers on value for money to drive a harder bargain. It won’t stop, ever. There will be very few commercial bodies in there saying that they have gone too far this time.

The justification for keeping the private sector out is that they might run off with the social housing assets. Sorry, but this made me laugh out loud. The right to buy horse has already bolted out of the stable. And the government wants to sell off even more homes on the cheap this way. What’s worse is that so many of these end up in the private rented sector at high rents. Why is it a good idea for the state to encourage amateur landlords but frustrate those that want to do things the right way and register with the HCA?

And finally I want to turn to the Altair report. I think it is a big step away from co-regulation. That deal involved the HCA and the landlords working together. If the landlord stuck to its end of the deal the HCA would play fair. Now we have something you could call tri-regulation. It is truly remarkable how many times Altair finds a role for advisers to get involved. As Lady Diana once said, there are three of us in this marriage. And we wait to see what takes precedence – the duty of client confidentiality or the duty to the HCA.

For the record I will say this: the boards I see don’t want to be that first domino. They are doing everything they can to get on top of their game. If the HCA shortens the reporting lines and we all do our best to squeeze value in sensible ways we can get through just about anything.

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