, Volume 26, Issue 1, pp 85-97
Date: 02 Dec 2010

The quasi-market based re-regulation: effects of setting housing association rents in England

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This paper outlines the current structure of housing association rents in England and examines critically the social rent-setting policy dilemmas. The paper charts the marked change of direction seen since the 1980s, with a switch from a deregulated approach giving housing associations freedom from central control within a clear accounting framework to set rents at least to cover costs, to a more regulated rent-setting system based on individual property values and local earnings levels. Using rental data from housing associations’ Regulatory and Statistical Returns, the study shows that social rents are now set on quasi-market principles that simulate some aspects of a real market reflecting the characteristics of the property, but continuing to be sub-market reflecting the lower household income of social tenants. However, the constraints of the rent-setting formula reduce the capacity of housing associations to undertake proper maintenance and improvement of existing stock. This will become a particular issue for those in London and the North of England where rents now only just cover operational costs.