Particular bodies: housing associations: introduction
Housing associations are ‘non-profit making’ organisations which aim to provide for people in housing need.
Some housing associations rely on the work of a committee of (usually unpaid) volunteers; others employ staff. Most associations provide rented accommodation, including houses, flats and hostels. Some also provide homes for sale through low cost home ownership schemes, such as shared ownership which is part sale, part rent. Some associations buy sites or properties for redevelopment. Others take over existing tenanted housing from local authorities or other public sector landlords under voluntary transfers.
Housing associations registered with the appropriate authority are variously known as Registered Social Landlords (RSL), Registered Providers and, more recently, Private Registered Providers of Social Housing (PRP). The terms RSL and PRP may both be encountered, but housing association is still the usual term and is widely used.
The Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) provides subsidies for new housing and regulates housing associations in England (except in London where the responsibility is that of the Greater London Authority). From 1 April 2012 the HCA is the regulatory authority for housing associations in England. The HCA’s responsibility was formerly that of the Housing Corporation.
Arrangements are different in Northern Ireland (Northern Ireland Housing Executive), Scotland (Scottish Housing Regulator) and Wales (Welsh Government responsibility).
The fact that housing associations are often described as ‘non profit making’ means, in broad terms, that it is not their primary purpose to make a commercial profit which can be distributed to their investors. Any profits that do in fact arise are, subject to the guidance contained in this section, subject to CT in the normal way. Housing associations’ day to day activities are funded by rent and service charges and in this sense they are commercial entities.
There has been debate about the public/private status of housing associations. They are regarded as public for some EU purposes and have been held subject to judicial review as public bodies are.
How housing associations are constituted
Most housing associations are ‘registered societies’ in Great Britain – formerly industrial and provident societies, see CTM40505 – and their treatment is set out in this section at CTM40400 onwards. There are also housing association Companies Act companies and trusts. which may (or may not) have charitable status. The normal company, trust and charity rules apply to all of these.