Headlines: February 13th, 2008

The independent regulator for charities in England and Wales is warning that proposals in the Housing and Regeneration Bill could have serious implications for charitable housing associations. The Charity Commission has highlighted its concerns in a briefing to members of the Bill Committee and other MPs with a particular interest in housing.

The Commission fears that changes proposed in the Bill could undermine charities’ independence and force them into activities which could jepoardise their charitable status. The Bill includes provisions for setting up a new regulatory body with the power to set compulsory standards for providers of social housing.

This measure, the Commission fears, might mean charities being forced to engage in activities that go beyond their charitable objects. If that were to happen it would mean the organisation involved no longer had exclusively charitable purposes and it could lose the financial and practical benefits of charitable status.

The Commission has already begun discussions with the Department of Communities and Local Government about the issue to look at how the new regulator can be effective without threatening the position of charitable housing associations. There are currently 1400 charitable Housing Associations which make up two thirds of the Social Landlords registered with the Housing Corporation.

Rosie Chapman, who is Director for Policy and Effectiveness for the Charity Commission, said, “Independence is central to charitable status, and trustees must always be able to take decisions that are in the best interest of the charity and its beneficiaries. If proposals in the Bill undermine their ability to do this, it would have serious implications for charitable housing associations.”