New Classification for Housing Associations Would Jeopardise Rebuilding Ireland Social Housing Programme

Wednesday, 20th December 2017
– The Irish Council for Social Housing reacts to today’s CSO classification of a large number of developing housing associations as bodies controlled by government that should be classified in the government sector –
The Irish Council for Social Housing (ICSH) has expressed its deep concern with the decision of the CSO to reclassify a large number of developing housing associations as bodies controlled by government and the proposal that these be classified in the government sector. Commenting on today’s announcement, ICSH CEO Dr. Donal McManus said, “the implications of this recommendation by the CSO to Eurostat will be significant for housing associations that are working to deliver as much social housing as possible under the Rebuilding Ireland programme”. 
According to the ICSH, the proposal by CSO appears to be based on  a number of assumptions of control and financing issues that doesn’t accurately reflect the contractual relationship between housing associations and the State. Housing associations,  as private non-profit bodies offer accommodation, similar to private landlords, to low-income households in need of housing. Housing associations are not controlled by the state. Currently, housing associations in Ireland (also known as approved housing bodies) are classified as private non-profit controlled institutions. A reclassification decision could have a number of serious implications including:
  • potentially limiting the ability of housing associations to deliver homes with private borrowing (for example from banks or credit unions); 
  • reducing the amount of social housing that can be delivered by housing associations through the current Rebuilding Ireland housing plan; 
  • creating significant uncertainty and delays for building programmes that are ongoing; and
  • impacting on the fiscal space.
Dr McManus added, “This decision by the CSO puts the delivery of much needed social homes in serious jeopardy based on the current funding structure. The ICSH and the sector will be looking closely at the background to the recommendation and is calling on Government to ensure that any classification will not impede current and future new developments especially as, in the context of the housing and homelessness crisis, the sector is playing its part. ICSH members expect to deliver at least 4,500 new social homes over the next two years. If there is not an urgent examination of the CSO reclassification decision, this vital social housing pipeline will be put in jeopardy.”
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Notes to Editor:
  • The Central Statistics Office (CSO) is responsible under EU law for the reporting of Government finance statistics, including deficit and debt. This includes classifying organisations and transactions according to the rules for compiling national accounts [European system of national and regional accounts in the European Union (ESA 2010)] These rules lay down criteria to establish whether individual entities should be included in the Government accounts – i.e. are they ‘on-balance sheet or off-balance sheet’ for Government.  Eurostat has requested the CSO to review the classification of Housing Associations (approved housing bodies). The 2016 Guidelines for ESA Implementation (the Manual on Government Deficit and Debt) can be downloaded here
  • The CSO proposal currently applies to housing associations that manage 300 or more units. These are known as Tier 3 approved housing bodies (AHBs).
Wednesday, 20 December, 2017