, Catherine Jane O'Rourke, Tim Waghorn December-15-2020 in Banking & Financial Services, COVID-19, Approved Housing Bodies (AHBs), Construction

The Covid-19 pandemic has impacted the providers of housing in a number of ways, operationally (in terms of new development, governance and ongoing operations) and financially.

Responses to the recent survey conducted by the Housing Agency Regulation Office indicated that whilst 99% of respondents indicated their organisation was “satisfied it was able to effectively manage its tenants and tenancies during Covid-19” there were a number of concerns identified:

  • Housing management practices had to change, including moves to essential/emergency maintenance only, reduced repairs programmes and significant changes to protocols and procedures to ensure health and safety of employees, tenants and contractors/trade. 
  • Expenditure in terms of staffing costs, PPE, repairs and maintenance had grown and was anticipated to continue at a raised level in 2021.
  • Fundraising/donations were adversely affected as was rental income and other non-housing income.
  • Moves to digital communication for communication with tenants (and internally) as well as a suspension of home visits to protect tenants was generally well received and tenants supported other tenants.

The impact of these on tenant well-being, the impact of social isolation and the vulnerability of tenants, especially those having to cocoon and who needed support in terms of delivery of groceries and medical prescriptions, was a strong theme for AHBs surveyed.

Whilst the survey notes that many AHBs have shown extraordinary resilience in how they provide their services, those who rely on fundraising do face a significant threat to financial sustainability. 

The medium to long term challenges arising from Covid-19 should not be underestimated and AHBs need to look both at their growth and new development prospects, whether they need to revisit costings of these in the light of Covid-19 and other demands on their resources and to ensure sustainability of performance and meeting objectives to delivery of services to existing tenants. 

Alongside the transition to prepare for the statutory regulation framework, Covid-19 issues means that the demands on AHBs, their boards and staff members have never been greater.

The AHB regulatory regime is developing and placing greater demands on AHBs at a time when the boards of AHBs are facing unprecedented challenges emerging from the impact of Covid-19. We seek to support and assist our AHB clients in navigating this challenging period.

If you wish to discuss any of the issues raised or if you require guidance, please contact Michael Hanley mhanley@hayes-solicitors.ie, Tim Waghorn twaghorn@hayes-solicitors.ie or Catherine Jane O'Rourke cjorourke@hayes-solicitors.ie at Hayes solicitors. 

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