Letter to Community Housing Registrar, WA, 17 September 2018

17 September 2018

Ms Lyn Anderson
Community Housing Registrar
Housing
Department of Communities
99 Plain Street
East Perth
WA 6004

Dear Lyn

Over the past few weeks, a number of Community Housing Providers (CHPs) have contacted CHIA WA and Shelter WA regarding the current re-registration process.

In this context, and given that the 30th September deadline is fast approaching for Registered CHPs to transition to the national framework, CHIA WA and Shelter WA consulted with the sector, including contacting all those listed as still registered under the 2007 system, to obtain a sector-wide view of the process.

At the outset, we would like to stress that a number of respondents said that their overall experience of the Regulatory team was positive. They reported friendly, timely, and structured feedback and that the Regulatory team had been fair, with flexibility to extend deadlines. Several reported that the process improved considerably with the later addition of experienced staff to the team. For the significant number that continued to find the process difficult, we have set out below the main themes of the feedback received, along with recommendations to address their concerns.

1. Overall, smaller organisations and those organisations for whom housing is only a small part, or not the main focus, of their business (large and small) experienced the most difficulty with the process.

The framework is not well suited to complex organisations for which housing is only a small part of their business. In some cases, this has been a deterrent to such organisations registering under the new system. This is a loss to the sector as these are often larger, well financed organisations, with good governance, and it would benefit the whole sector if they became bigger players in housing or serviced a niche market.

Similarly, smaller organisations where management of housing, although important, is secondary to their role in support service delivery found that the focus of the assessment tools, particularly the financial ones, was not well suited to their business.

The feedback was that assessment of these types of organisations was overly comprehensive across the non-housing parts of the business, whilst not being tailored to reflect that these are non-housing areas.

When reviewing the regulatory framework, some thought needs to be given as to how to make the regulation appropriate and proportionate for such organisations.

2. Many found the process cumbersome and time consuming, particularly the financial template which takes a full-time, suitably qualified person, two to four weeks to fill out, depending on the closeness of the organisation’s accounts system to the template.

3. Several CHPs felt that the initial briefings and information did not adequately prepare them for the detail of what was to come. A lot of very specific information requirements only became evident after the process got underway. This created a lot of time pressure which could have been avoided if they had realised the time they would need to allocate to prepare in advance of their allocated timeslot.

4. Many of those going through the process at the end of the financial year reported that the timing was not good. They felt the window allocated to them meant they were being required to stick to a timetable whilst managing their year-end, audit, and AGM processes. Smaller organisations in particular find this very difficult to juggle.

5. Many CHPs are still undecided as to whether it is worth the effort. In this regard, some providers requested a debrief from the Housing Authority regarding the consequences of losing registration and/or the advantages of being registered; and a wider conversation about the intended benefits and outcomes from going through the process.

6. We note that the Contracts side of the HA has given a number of CHPs written assurance that they will take no action regarding temporary loss of registration, provided the CHP is actively going through the process and is registered within 6 months. We appreciate this and trust that this approach will be taken for all CHPs in this situation.

7. There is confusion on the part of some CHPs as to whether this is the national scheme.

8. Two providers felt that the distinction between the three tiers was not nuanced enough and that what was required of a Tier 3 provider was not very different from that required of Tier 1 and 2 providers.

9. There is an appreciation of the need for good governance, but some felt the governance requirements did not reflect the small size and/or regional nature of their organisation and the limitations this places on them.

10. There was some concern that regulation duplicates information required to be provided under the current contract/lease agreements.

Whilst we support nationally consistent regulation, which is important to the overall growth of the sector, we remind the Housing Authority of its stated intention, when the NRSCH was first mooted for WA, that there would be less red tape: for example, the Regulator and Contracts would not be asking for similar data in different forms; nor that a financial template would be mandatory but that the same audited accounts provided to ASIC/ACNC would be acceptable.

Based on this feedback we respectfully recommend that:

1. All CHPS who are required to be registered under the terms of their contract(s) with the Housing Authority, are given assurance in writing that the Housing Authority will take no action regarding temporary loss of registration provided they are going through the process and are registered within 6 months.

2. The Housing Authority provides a debrief to the sector re the consequences of losing registration and/or the advantages of being registered.

3. That the pending national review of the financial template reflects the feedback that one size does not fit all and aims to make this requirement less onerous in terms of the format of its delivery.

4. That the timetable provided to individual CHPs for future registration/re-registration, takes into account other statutory reporting obligations CHPs must comply with at certain times of the year.

5. That CHIA WA and Shelter WA are actively included in any forthcoming review of the Regulatory System.

Kind regards

Yours sincerely

 

Jennie Vartan, State Manager, CHIA WA

Michelle Mackenzie, CEO, Shelter WA