The Regulator of Social Housing (RSH) warned that social housing boards must balance competing risks and improve transparency in its ninth annual report.

It said that tenant and building safety were key responsibilities. That means boards need a firmer grip on the changing legal landscape with good assurance on health and safety.

‘Boards and councillors are the custodians of people’s homes,” Fiona MacGregor, RSH chief executive reportedly said. “And as society and the economy emerge from the pandemic the social housing sector faces continuing challenge and public scrutiny.”

Key risks

In fact, the body’s Sector Risk Profile identifies the key risks providers face.

Boards need to set a clear strategic direction to navigate the competing pressures they face. For example, board need to invest in building safety and energy standards. But at the same time, they must also develop housing stock for future tenants.

This is particularly challenging because boards are increasingly relying on debt to fund such investments. With rising inflation, such strategies may affect some organisations’ financial viability, RSH said.

“It is crucial that Boards have the skills to understand and challenge the merits and risks of all financial products they employ,” the report said.

In addition, there is a skills shortage in the sector. Providers could struggle to deliver repair, maintenance and safety upgrades, according to the industry publication Inside Housing.

Extra scrutiny

The Government’s 2020 White Paper on social housing sets out a tougher regulatory regime for the sector following the Grenfell Tower tragedy of June 2017.

The paper puts pressure on boards to improve transparency around decision-making to tenants and other interested parties.

“Boards must be able to clearly articulate their organisation’s purpose and be transparent in communicating performance against this in order to manage the reputational risk inherent to such trade-offs,” the report said.