Understanding data objectives: economic and consumer
The RSH regulations have two main objectives: economic and consumer. The consumer objective is to ensure that tenants have safe, well-maintained accommodation, choices over their property and protection. Tenants should be able to hold their landlords accountable, and data should provide a clear narrative of complaints, issues and concerns. It covers four standards: Home Standard, Tenancy Standard, Neighbourhood and Community Standard and Tenant Involvement and Empowerment Standard. The Economic objective is to make sure that registered social housing providers are “well-managed and financially stable”. This provides some degree of protection against the sudden and unexpected collapse of a social housing landlord, which would have dire consequences for their tenants, their local council and their investors. The RSH’s economic standards are Governance and Financial Viability, Value for Money and Rent.
Financial instability in a Housing Association is one of the biggest risks to tenants – a lesson learned the hard way in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, when near-bankruptcies amongst landlords created a crisis in the social housing sector. Housing Associations now need to report regular, comprehensive financial data through NROSH+, the RSH’s data collection portal.
The mandatory data collated by NROSH+ enables the regulator to clearly see the financial health of Associations, assessing both their current financial strength and their long-term viability as a social landlord. Under Section 118 of the Housing and Regeneration Act 2008, the RSH can deregister Associations that fail to comply on financial grounds and enter them into insolvency proceedings, as happened to Essex-based Larch Housing Association earlier this year. As well as financial stability, the regulator can also govern how Association’s housing stock is being managed, from the availability of housing offered by the Association to the amount of housing stock that is being ‘disposed of’ (sold).
Data that needs to be recorded and submitted includes an annual statistical data return, financial forecast return and electronic annual accounts, as well as a quarterly survey. The challenge for Associations is collating this data and ensuring its accuracy and completeness – especially if they have multiple sites, multiple data systems and multiple data stakeholders across the business. For Associations without a central source of data, every report can spark a frustrating manual process that’s both time-consuming and prone to errors.
Disparity in data reporting across the Association can also add another layer of complexity and risk, with those responsible for reporting having to search for the data they need and convert it into the correct format before they submit.