The Office of National Statistics (ONS) announced its decision to reclassify housing associations in Scotland as Public Non-Financial Corporations on 29 September 2016.
This followed a similar ruling in October 2015, when ONS ruled that the housing regulator in England – the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) - demonstrated “control” over English housing associations and used this as the basis to reclassify them. The HCA powers referenced by the ONS in its decision are broadly similar to those of the Scottish Housing Regulator, so it was expected that the ONS would reach the similar conclusion in Scotland that it did.
If this decision was not reversed, it could mean that HA assets and liabilities would go onto the Scottish Government books, possibly meaning that there could be an element of Government control over any future HA borrowing.
SFHA has been liaising closely with Scottish Government, as it works to ensure that ONS reclassify RSLs as private bodies once again. Scottish Government proposed legislative measures to achieve this, and the Housing (Amendment) (Scotland) Act 2018 received Royal Assent in July 2018. This Act will involve amendments to the powers of the Scottish Housing Regulator, with the intention of reducing any perceived level of "control" it has over the sector in the view of ONS.
Regulations will be required to commence the Act, and at that point it is expected ONS will reconsider their reclassification decision. In England, similar legislation was passed and - immediately following the enactment of the regulations - the ONS reclassified English housing associations as Private Non-Financial Corporations once more.
North of the border, regulations are expected to be finalised by Scottish Government in Autumn 2018. It is then expected that ONS will make a similar ruling shortly thereafter regarding Scottish RSLs.
SFHA continues to liaise closely with the Scottish Government as this progresses.