George Walker (GW) SHR Chair (via Teams video)
Andrew Watson (AW) SHR Deputy Chair (chaired the meeting)
Siobhan White (SW) SHR Board member & ARAC Chair
Lindsay Paterson (LP) SHR Board member
Colin Stewart SHR Board member (via Teams video)
In attendance at the meeting
Michael Cameron (MC) SHR Chief Executive
Helen Shaw (HS) SHR Director of Regulation (items 1 – 9 & 11)
Iain Muirhead (IM) SHR Director of Digital & Business Support (items 1 – 9 & 11)
Roisin Harris (RH) SHR Corporate Governance Manager (items 1 – 9 & 11)
Alison Watson (AW) Shelter Scotland (guest speaker for item 11)
Gemma Rickman SHR Regulation Manager (items 1 – 9 & 11)
Welcome, Apologies and Declarations
AW welcomed all present, including those joining via Teams video and staff observer GR. GW thanked AW for chairing the meeting.
The Board noted apologies from SHR Board members Ewan Fraser (EF), Helen Trouten Torres (HTT) and Marieke Dwarshuis (MD). AW reported he had received comments from all on the papers and would feed these into discussions.
The Board noted that AW recently attended the UK Finance dinner as a guest and won a bottle of whiskey in a charity raffle. There were no other declarations of interest.
The Board also noted and approved the consent agenda items including:
- Chair & Member activity report;
- minutes from 29 August;
- the matters arising report; and
- draft minutes from the Sep 2023 Audit & Risk Assurance Committee.
The Board noted a request to share information on compassionate leadership received by ARAC with the full Board.
Action: IM to share information on compassionate leadership provided recently to ARAC with the full SHR Board.
Chief Executive Report & Regulatory Framework Review
MC presented on issues and developments that impact regulated bodies, the wider housing environment and SHR. He highlighted the range of work including:
- the work with Scottish Government and other stakeholders in response to acute issues in homelessness;
- emerging analysis around housing supply and the impact this will have on availability of homes for those in temporary accommodation; and
- concrete – reporting that SHR will collect data on RAAC from landlords during October 2023 to inform regulatory approach and Scottish Government.
MC also reported that SHR is likely to be invited to participate in an evidence session with the Scottish Parliament’s Social Justice and Social Security Committee on homelessness in early 2024.
The Board consider work in connection with RAAC and discussed:
- the private rented sector, noting that some authorities use private sector lets as temporary accommodation. MC confirmed that SHR will also ask landlords about homes that may have previously been disposed of and could now be in the private rented sector, but beyond that is outwith SHR’s remit. It noted that Scottish Government is keen for a wider picture including the private rented sector and is exploring options to gain this in partnership with local authorities;
- removal of some tenants by a social landlord from homes, noting that in this case RAAC was found to be in a dangerous condition; and
- the staged and drill down approach planned for the RAAC information gathering and follow up engagement.
The Board also discussed:
- the Human Rights Bill, noting duties that could be placed on scrutiny bodies to report on the progress of those that they regulate, which could be significant It noted that there remains some uncertainty, but the expectation seems to be for progressive introduction over a number of years following introduction of the legislation, which is currently being consulted upon;
- the Statutory Manager list refresh, noting the process for taking account of costs during selection, interest to date and that existing members are required to reapply. It also noted that SHR has not needed to draw upon the list recently, but as it is published others may also look to it as a source of expertise;
- the work of the Scottish Government’s rent affordability working group that is expected to continue into 2024. It noted the wide membership, interests and focus group work which resulted in similar conclusions to SHR’s research with the National Panel of Tenants and Service Users. It also noted some debates around whole house costs and how any definition of affordability would be used;
- decline in development programmes, noting indicators from SHR’s National Charter report and emerging work on loan portfolio and five-year financial projections, which SHR will report on later in 2023 and in Scottish Government statistics. The Board noted this could reflect the strains on the sector and will likely impact Scottish Government targets, and availability of homes to those in temporary accommodation. It agreed to form clear messages for stakeholders including the Scottish Parliament’s Local Government, Housing and Planning Committee; and
- feedback from landlords that the sector is experiencing layers of strains including borrowing costs and competing pressures with new standards and requirements as well as rent controls.
The Board thanked MC and noted the CEO update.
Regulatory Framework consultation pack
MC presented the consultation pack to the Board for consideration. He highlighted the various sections that make up the pack. The Board considered the pack, noting earlier discussions with MC during September to inform development.
The Board considered Regulatory Status and discussed:
- Management Team considerations, noting that it is proposing three statuses with amended wording to clarify that that working towards compliance is a non-compliant status;
- considerations Management Team gave to the possible introduction of an additional status, noting the risks that it identified through worked examples around timing, impact, implementation complexity and practicality as well as consideration of feedback from all stakeholders;
- the “under review” label, noting that this means SHR has identified or received information that means it is reviewing the regulatory status of the RSL and it will update the regulatory status as soon as this review is complete. It noted that this acts as a flag to indicate that a status may change, and the ambition is for this to be used for relatively short periods of time;
- the role of published engagement plans in capturing and reporting on any improvements needed; and
- work around SHR’s internal procedures to ensure clarity and consistency.
The Board agreed to consult on retaining three statuses with amended wording to clarify that that working towards compliance is a non-compliant status, which it welcomed. It asked MC and HS to consider if there are opportunities to sharpen the language in connection with the under review flag.
The Board considered Significant Performance Failures. It noted work to review the language and legal advice provided. The Board discussed:
- the reviewed language, welcoming the clarity. It noted that accompanying factsheet could include a diagram to help illustrate the different routes for tenant concerns;
- use of the term significant performance failure, noting references instead to serious and many concerns. It noted feedback from tenants around jargon and MC confirmed he will review for consistency and clarity;
- how an individual can raise a concern, noting that that SHR is very keen to avoid tenants not bringing forward concerns. It noted the Act does is not prescriptive on actions and that SHR considers all concerns raised, signposts tenants to the most appropriate routes as well as having discussions with landlords and responding to tenants;
- reference to other serious concerns, noting legal advice that there should be a reference to section 30 of the Housing (Scotland) 2021 Act and welcoming that SHR is fulfilling the terms of the Act; and
- how the route to bring a serious concern set out in the Framework proposals reflect legislation.
The Board welcomed the clarity now provided around serious concerns.
MC and HS also highlighted proposed statutory guidance changes. The Board noted that most are not substantial and reflect updates and amendments due to use of powers. They explained some changes around insolvency and also clarification and learning in updates to the group structures and direction to transfer guidance.
AW asked the Board to forward any corrections to MC and HS to help finalise the pack.
The Board also discussed:
- impact assessments and if there is a relationship with Scottish Performance Indicators, noting that impact indicators are defined by statute and that performance would be more about the impact of the Framework; and
- potential for involvement of tenants in the design and evaluation of services, noting the relationship to the Charter and also that while landlords are obliged to involve tenants, the methodology is not prescribed.
The Board considered proposals to appoint independent consultants Jump to analyse the consultation responses costing up to £15,000. MC confirmed the consultant was sourced via Scottish Government procurement frameworks.
The Board noted the communication and engagement plan to promote the consultation and that SHR would continue to seek additional opportunities to engage with stakeholders. The Board expressed interest in doing something with tenants perhaps reaching out to more remote areas.
The Board approved:
- the approach for consultation on the regulatory status for RSLs;
- the consultation package subject to final updates to reflect Board feedback;
- expenditure of up to £15,000 for the appointment of Jump to carry out the independent analysis of consultation responses to our consultation; and
- note the communication and engagement plan for the consultation, encouraging Management Team to seek additional opportunities.
- MC and HS to take account of Board feedback as they finalise the consultation package for publication.
- MC to appoint Jump to carry out an independent analysis of the consultation responses costing up to £15,000.
Regulatory Risk Assessment
HS and JJ presented proposals for the forthcoming regulatory risk assessment. They set out how recruitment has and will help with deliverability. They also highlighted the challenges the sector is facing including homelessness as well as providing safe, warm and affordable homes. The Board noted the strains and the economic challenges for landlords and tenants.
JJ highlighting the key proposals on focus areas. He explained the variety of evidence sources used and the timeline for the risk assessment ending in March 2024 and how that will relate to implementation of the new Regulatory Framework in terms of a regulatory status for RSLs. JJ set out in more detail the strategic context for the risk assessment and signposted the Board to detail on each of the areas of proposed focus.
The Board considered the proposals and discussed:
- resourcing assessments, noting that SHR looks across the board at indicators and outliers will trigger further focus. It noted that some work has started to analyse service quality and that the whole process is in-
- Annual Assurance Statements, noting that SHR has provided information to landlords on what to cover and that the work it did with SFHA and CIH on damp and mould was welcomed by the sector and landlords have examined how they can strengthen reporting by tenants and others as well as how they manage and respond;
- information being gathered on completion rates for new builds, agreeing to highlight this to stakeholders including the Scottish Parliament’s Local Government, Housing and Planning Committee;
- temporary accommodation and scope for further possible work around families with children and pregnant women and others with protected characteristics, noting opportunities to cover in structured conversations with local authorities and future thematic studies;
- messages in the previous homelessness thematic, agreeing there seems to be deterioration, how this is communicated and the related work around Scottish Government’s urgent response to the situation in temporary accommodation;
- challenges for SHR in reporting on other duties and performance if landlords redirect resources, even on a temporary basis, to help ease the temporary accommodation situation;
- RSL duties to respond to homelessness referrals from local authorities and common practice to use partnership nomination agreements rather than statutory referrals;
- temporary accommodation leasing from the private sector, noting the costs involved and that this is more common in urban areas, but presents management and quality challenges for local authorities;
- the national acquisition fund monitoring, noting this is Scottish Government’s responsibility.
The Board approved the risk assessment methodology for 2023/24 and noted that SHR will publish information about the risks that it will focus on in November 2023.
Staff Survey on SHR Board proposals
RH presented proposals for the annual survey of SHR staff about the Board. The Board considered proposals and discussed:
- potential to also reference the work of ARAC;
- the value of open questions, agreeing to include an opportunity to suggest future questions;
- survey timing, noting that it was issued in December last year, and plans are for an earlier issue and extended availability timeframe for 2023; and
- how new staff that have joined SHR recently could shape the survey outcome.
Actions: RH to take account of Board feedback and survey staff about it, reporting results in February 2024.
Board succession planning
GW and RH presented on SHR Board succession planning. GW highlighted discussions with SW around planning for ARAC membership and skill gaps as he, SW and AW come to end of their terms in 2025. The Board discussed the skills required and agreed to:
- support staggering recruitment with one post during 2024 with the other two, including the Chair, in 2025;
- to seek financial skills from the 2024 recruitment campaign; and
- spend some time in the future considering the skills for the chair and remaining member post to be recruited in 2025.
The Board asked GW to recommend its considerations to Scottish Ministers and to work with Scottish Government colleagues to support recruitment campaigns.
Action: GW and RH to work with Scottish Government colleagues to relay recommendations around skills sought and recruitment sequencing to Scottish Ministers.
AOB, DONM & Agenda Planner
There were no items of AOB. The Board considered and noted the agenda planner. RH confirmed that work has commenced on securing guest speakers for 2024.
The Board noted it will hold a workshop with Management Team on 8 November 2023 and that the Housing Minister will attend for part of this meeting.
Effectiveness of meetings and papers
The Board welcomed the papers and presentations agreeing these were to a high standard. It thanked AW for chairing the meeting and noted that the hybrid set up had been effective.
GR provided the Board with feedback on her observations.
The Board met in private with MC.
Guest speaker – Alison Watson Shelter Scotland
The Board met with Alison Watson, Director of Shelter Scotland. It noted that it was World Homeless Day. The Board welcomed the continued positive working relationship with Shelter Scotland. AW presented to the Board on:
- capacity challenges for landlords;
- the impact of progressive housing rights in Scotland, the increase in homeless households and how this has not been matched by a supply of homes;
- the need for an emergency response to the current situation, the contributing factors and system pressures including the cost of living and housing people from overseas;
- differences with the position in England and the availability of useful information and data in Scotland;
- how build costs have impacted targets for new homes and if there should be a focus on acquisition;
- the impact of SHR’s thematic report on homelessness, that Shelter welcomed that this had detailed the risk of systemic failure and questioning if the position has since deteriorated;
- work done to build relationships with and understand the challenges landlords are facing;
- how supply is now viewed as the key issue and due to building costs the value Shelter places on maximising the use of existing stock; and
- the new Housing SOS campaign launched by Shelter seeking an urgent response from the Scottish First Minister.
The Board considered the presentation and discussed:
- the challenges around acquisitions, noting that a pilot may be useful to explore further, and the costs associated with bringing properties up to standard. It also noted work in Wales;
- work done in other countries, noting the focus and resources applied in Finland around rapid rehousing and new homes and the different nature of the housing sector in other countries such as Austria;
- the role of the private sector and how it is viewed in Scotland compared to other countries, noting anecdotal feedback on investment barriers and challenges around emerging regulation plans including cost;
- the value Shelter places on thematic, data and evidence work produced by SHR, noting forthcoming related work planned by Audit Scotland and others;
- engagement with Glasgow City Council (GCC) prior to the pandemic and the impact of it on the sector and households that are homeless and joint work that Shelter did with GCC on the Scottish Government’s homelessness task and finish group;
- the evolving political environment in Scotland, noting areas of focus for the current Housing Minister and forthcoming tough budget decisions;
- the role of RSLs in allocations;
- differences between Scotland and other parts of the UK, noting work in Wales and Northern Ireland which has a national delivery body in the Housing Executive and if there could be benefits in national approaches and economies of scale; and
- how some homeless people in Scotland have been referred to England and that in some areas a local authority has reduced the use of B&Bs, but others are filling up the same B&B accommodation as it becomes available.
The Board noted the pressure on the homelessness systems and how this sit alongside challenges around the cost of living, climate change targets as well as global issues with all issues being interconnected. It noted the potential impact of new homes on supply, the economy and child poverty. The Board agreed to consider further communication with key stakeholders noting forthcoming opportunities.
The Board thanked AW for her time.
Between 21 October and 12 December 2023, the Board was briefed or received updates on:
- stakeholder engagement in connection with SHR’s Regulatory Framework; and
- publications including:
- update statement to SHR homelessness thematic;
- summary statement on RAAC data collection;
- summary of the risks SHR will focus on in its annual risk assessment; and
- RSL financial statements for 22022/23.