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RIHAF Annual Conference

RIHAF's Annual Conference will take place on Thursday 29 and Friday 30 October at Macdonald Aviemore Highland Resort. The RIHAF meeting will be held on Wednesday 28 October.

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Albyn Housing Society is the conference host and Edison Energy is the main sponsor.

The conference will feature plenaries and workshops related to recent developments in rural housing. The event will also see the return of the political journalist panel session which will debate the burning issues related to the world of housing and beyond. Further details on the conference will follow in due course.

For the 6th year in a row, RIHAF has been able to freeze prices and offer members a discounted residential place of £390. The fee includes attendance, all refreshments and lunch, plus dinner and accommodation on Thursday evening. Day places start at £170 per day. For those wishing to stay on Wednesday 29 October, accommodation is available at an additional cost of £90 Bed & Breakfast, or £120 Dinner, Bed & Breakfast per person in a sole occupancy room.

For booking details, please see the SFHA website.


 

   
Entitlements, Payments and Benefits Policy

The SFHA is continuing to liaise with the Scottish Housing Regulator (SHR) regarding the Entitlements, Payments and Benefits Policy (EPB) Policy. As you may be aware, the area that SFHA has found the most difficult to find agreement relates to the use of the RSL's contractors by its staff/GBMs. The SFHA is seeking to ensure that the approach not only provides the necessary safe guards against any actual or perceived misuse but also that no member of staff/GBM is disadvantaged through their role with the RSL.

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At its meeting on Tuesday 21 April, RIHAF made three calls upon the SFHA as follows:

  1.  To confirm that any model policy published by the SFHA will ensure that not only must a person connected to a RSL not gain any advantage from their position in relation to the procurement of goods or services in their private life, equally they must not be disadvantaged because of their connection to that RSL;
  2. To develop jointly and publish with EVH (and any other relevant industry body as the SFHA sees fit) an Entitlements, Payments and Benefits Policy for the sector that is consistent with good employment practice, and can therefore be enforced; and
  3. To consult with the SFHA membership as a whole on the specific issue of private use of suppliers and contractors (where the supplier's and contractor's services are available to members of the public), and how to appropriately identify and manage conflicts of interest (actual and perceived) that may arise as a result.

The SFHA undertook to discuss the issues raised at the next SFHA Board meeting, and the subject will be discussed again at the next RIHAF meeting.


 

   
Highlands and Islands HAs Affordable Warmth Working Group (Heehaw)

The Highlands and Islands Housing Associations Affordable Warmth Working Group (knicknamed 'HeeHaw') was set up to consider and recommend practicable courses of action required to remove the stumbling blocks to the delivery of affordable warmth the very many rural households experiencing serious fuel poverty. It has two main aims : to get domestic fuel prices down to national averages and to set up an 'Energycare' project which will get to grip with the persistent hard-to-heat and hard-to-treat problems affecting so many older homes and households in the Highlands & Islands more rural and remote communities.

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HeeHaw is chaired by Lochaber HA Chairman, Di Alexander, and prior to the General Election, meetings were held with senior Westminster Ministers to lobby for equitable prices for Highland and Island customers who are currently pay considerably more for their electricity and domestic heating oil than in most other parts of the UK. Submissions have also been made to both Ofgem and the Competitions and Marketing Authority and a meeting was held with SSE, the main electricity provider in the North of Scotland.

The group also launched its Affordable Warmth Manifesto during the election campaign period. It demands a level playing field for Scotland regarding energy prices and sought public support from every prospective Highland and Island MP. The main points of the manifesto are:

  1. Standing charges and the price of a standard unit of electricity should be exactly the same wherever you live in the UK
  2. There should be no delay in equalising the standard electricity price in the Highlands and Islands
  3. Moreover, off-peak/'economy' rate electricity should also be made available to domestic customers at exactly the same minimum unit cost, wherever they live in the UK
  4. The currently unregulated domestic heating oil and LPG (bottled gas) supply market in the Highlands and Islands should be thoroughly investigated, with a view to Government intervention (regulation and/or subsidy) that results in retail prices being brought down to UK averages.

On the Group's behalf, Donnie Mackay and Moira Scobbie of Lochalsh & Skye HA's Energy Advice Service are currently working up a proposal for a Highland and Islands wide Energycare project and the HeeHaw Group will continue to campaign and lobby for fair energy prices.


 

   
Update on HARIS project

The SFHA has been consulting with members regarding a new initiative to raise private finance at scale within the sector. HARIS (the Housing Association Resource for Investment Scheme) is an innovative way of aggregating up finance requirements to build new social rented homes which will assist with the covenant, scale and cost issues currently facing many housing associations.

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HARIS will be a not for profit company owned by all the members that join. It will be a registered RSL in its own right and a registered charity. Member housing associations will enter into a development agreement with HARIS and progress projects identified in SHIPs with local authorities up to tender stage. At the point of letting the tender, the site will transfer to HARIS and HARIS will use a revolving nil or low cost fund to finance the build of the houses in the usual way. HARIS will then let the houses to tenants selected by the member housing association on a Scottish Secure Tenancy and also enter into a management and maintenance contact with the member association to manage the houses.

By being able to aggregate up once the houses are built, packages for refinancing will be certain and cost effective for lenders.

The principle benefits will be:

  • Off balance sheet borrowing for members with covenant or financial capacity problem
  • Competition between lenders
  • Cheaper borrowing costs and rates
  • Member control of the company and its objectives
  • Ability of local authorities to explore longer-term strategic planning with local housing association partners
  • Ability to access other sources of finance – i.e. European Investment Bank – directly.

An inaugural Steering Group Meeting was held on 9 March at the SFHA Office in Glasgow to discuss the next steps and role of the steering group. The SFHA has also held initial positive discussions with the European Investment Bank.

If RIHAF members would like further information regarding HARIS, please contact Susan Torrance, storrance@sfha.co.uk or 07827278800 or 01324 821343.


 

   


 
Produced by the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations on behalf of RIHAF members.
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Welcome to the official homepage for the Rural & Islands Housing Associations Forum (RIHAF).

The Forum represents the interests of widely dispersed and disparate social landlords working in remote rural communities as well as those on the periphery of towns.

Send in your news: features@sfha.co.uk

For information on RIHAF membership, please email: martin.pollhammer@elha.com

To access the RIHAF area on the SFHA website please click here (Members Only)

 

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