The Tenant Services Authority recently asked for the Charity Commission’s view on the implications for charitable housing associations of the introduction of the new Affordable Rents product. This is our response:
Thank you for the issues you raised with us regarding the new Affordable Rents product. We are sorry that we could not meet, and we’re happy still to do so. In the meantime I hope the following will help answer your questions.
All charities, including charitable housing associations, are required to demonstrate a public benefit. Our guidance Charities and Public Benefit and The Prevention or Relief of Poverty for the Public Benefit explain this requirement in more detail.
Given the different types of charitable housing association, the breadth of their activities, and the areas in which they operate, we cannot be definitive about whether the introduction of an Affordable Rents product by any particular charitable housing association will affect its charitable status and associations will need to seek their own legal advice on this as necessary.
However, there are some key points that an association should consider and these include:
In summary, in principle, charitable housing associations can provide an Affordable Rents product. However, the extent to which the product will be used to relieve poverty may determine whether it is able to satisfy the public benefit requirement and one aspect of this will be the extent to which housing benefit will cover the rental. Charitable associations operating in areas of high market rents will therefore need to look at this aspect in detail to see whether the affordable rents can provide a means of relieving poverty.
We are happy for you to publish this response, and we are also sending a copy to the NHF who have separately written to us on this issue.
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