24 September 2004
A first attempt by the Housing Corporation to measure the efficiency of housing associations has been strongly criticised by their professional body.
The National Housing Federation claims that an efficiency index produced by the corporation focuses solely on cost and makes no effort to assess the quality of services provided by registered social landlords.
It is especially angry that a 'league table' of RSLs, published by the corporation last month to coincide with consultations, was used by local newspapers to 'name and shame' some landlords.
In a letter to Housing Corporation chief executive Jon Rouse on September 20, the federation called on it to look for 'efficiency for a purpose'.
Jim Coulter, the NHF's chief executive, said housing associations were prepared to work with the government to promote efficiency but wanted the index to be retitled. 'It should be renamed to make it clear that it is a cost indicator only,' he wrote.
The letter was sent two days before Rouse was due to speak at the NHF's annual conference in Birmingham on September 22.
In its manifesto for neighbourhoods, also published this week, the federation calls on political parties to use tax breaks and other fiscal incentives to encourage housing associations to develop as social enterprises.
The federation also wants a national housing market renewal strategy. More than 400 RSLs that together own about 75% of homes in the sector have joined its 'In business for neighbourhoods' campaign, which was launched at the conference a year ago.
According to the first annual progress report, RSLs are increasingly seen as providers of affordable housing and better communities but must engage with other organisations.
Coulter told Public Finance that some RSLs need to form stronger links with health trusts, the police and local authorities. 'Delivery on the ground is a matter for individual associations,' he said.