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Publication of Approved Standards for Approved Housing Bodies ("AHBs")

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Ireland

On 15 February 2022, the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Darragh O'Brien approved the standards for AHBs submitted by the Approved Housing Bodies Regulatory Authority (the "AHBRA")
 
The AHBRA was established on February 2021 pursuant to the Housing (Regulation of Approved Housing Bodies) Act 2019 (the "Act"). The AHBRA is responsible for the regulation of the AHB sector in Ireland.
 
What are Approved Housing Bodies?
 
AHBs are independent, not-for-profit organisations that aim to provide affordable renting housing. Housing co-operatives may also be AHBs. There are currently approximately 470 AHBs in Ireland.
 
AHBs play a crucial role in the current housing crisis and are currently responsible for more than 43,000 homes, with a further 8,000 homes due to be provided in the near future. In 2022 alone, AHBs are expected to provide about 43% of the 9,000 new-build social homes.
 
What are the functions of the AHBRA?
 
The ever growing demand for affordable housing requires the efficient delivery of social housing projects and the proper governance of the AHB sector, both of which the AHBRA seeks to achieve.
 
At a recent press release, Minister O'Brien commented on the role of the AHBRA and AHBs, stating that both will be key in "assisting the Department in meeting the objectives under Housing for All to enable sustainable housing systems in Ireland".
 
Minister O'Brien also noted that "statutory regulation will provide further assurances to tenants, the public and potential investors that AHBs operate in a secure environment".
 
Other functions of the AHBRA, as set out in the Act include:
 
  • Establish and maintain a register of AHBs
  • Prepare and publish AHB approved standards
  • Monitor and assess compliance by AHBs with the approved standards
  • Carry out investigations
  • Protect tenants and AHBs   
 
What are Approved Standards for AHBs?
 
A statutory function of the AHBRA is the drafting and publishing of approved housing standards. These standards will encourage and facilitate the better governance, administration, and management of AHBs. The standards relate to –
 
  • The governance of AHBs
  • The financial management of, and financial reporting by AHBs
  • Property and asset management by AHBs
  • Tenancy management by AHBs
 
The Act provides for different standards for certain categories of AHBs and sets out a number of factors to consider when applying the standards. These include:
 
  • The nature, scale and complexity of the activities of each category of AHB
  • The number of dwellings provided or managed by each category of AHB
  • The level of borrowings of each category of AHB
  • The level of financial risk associated with each category of AHB
 
Section 37(8) of the Act requires all AHBs to comply with the standards ensuring a uniform application across the AHB sector.
 
Minister O'Brien has recently approved the draft standards submitted by the AHBRA, marking an important milestone in the overall regulatory framework of the AHB sector. The standards have been drafted in accordance with the principles of proportionality, accountability, and transparency, and provide a number of outcomes AHBs are required to achieve under each of the standards.
 
The proper governance of the AHB sector, which the standards seek to achieve, is a welcome step towards meeting the increased demand for affordable housing.
 
The standards can be read in further detail here.

Written by:  Zoe Richardson James Roche and Sinead Cussen

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