A wide range of local and regional housing providers emphasised that a critical success factor for the implementation of the National Regulatory System will be the promotion of partnerships opportunities across tiers—particularly opportunities for
Tier 3 providers accessing growth funding to undertake small-scale developments by partnering with a Tier 1 provider with expertise in managing housing development
Tier 1 providers accessing growth through whole-of-region stock-transfers by partnering with a range of local Tier 3 providers to manage on-the-ground delivery of housing services
smaller providers that do not want to grow choosing to merge with an existing registered provider to allow them to continue to deliver local services without seeking ‘stand-alone’ registration.
Providers highlighted that such partnerships should be supported as part of an overarching Industry Development Strategy and opportunities promoted as part of all future funding arrangements.
Housing providers highlighted a number of critical implementation issues linked to the decisions of how state/ territory policy and funding agencies will use the new NRSCH. In particular, providers wanted state/ territory policy and funding agencies to
publish guidelines on their registration conditions for receiving housing assistance—so that providers understand the implication of seeking or not seeking registration in a particular tier. Shelter Tasmania (Submission 17) highlighted that providers should be given as much notice as possible about the state/ territory policy position on registration—covering both conditions for the maintenance of existing funding and proposed arrangements for future funding
review policy and funding settings that sit outside of the National Regulatory System to ensure they align with requirements under the National Law / National Regulatory Code and are consistent with the policy intent of the National Regulatory System. In practice this should mean removing duplicative control. For example, one Queensland provider (Submission 13) recommended that with the introduction of the NRSCH, the state policy and funding agency could drop the requirement for providers to be accredited under the National Community Housing Standards—allowing providers to choose what industry best practice standards was relevant to their organisation.
The Community Housing Council of South Australia (Submission 20) highlighted that “unless there is strong commitment and support by the states to the underlying principles of this legislation, which is to simplify and standardise the registration of housing providers, the states will introduce de facto regulation and compliance via their funding agreements and policies.”
Community housing providers in different states and territories generally raised very similar issues about the NRSCH—with the relative emphasis on particular issues reflecting the local and jurisdictional context.
The most common jurisdiction-specific issues related to the timing of the introduction of the NRSCH and the impact on funding arrangements. Where regulation has not been introduced, for example in Tasmania and the Northern Territory, there is uncertainty with regards to the capacity of providers to demonstrate their suitability to bid for government investment projects.
A full summary of jurisdiction-specific feedback is provided in attachment 2.
At a broader level, providers were concerned that some states and territories may choose not to participate in the NRSCH—excluding providers in those jurisdictions from the benefits of national regulation. Specifically, if a state or territory chose to opt-out of the NRSCH, providers may face a double regulatory burden of state-based and national regulation—given that a number of providers believed that to access future growth opportunities they would still want to be on the national community housing register.
In addition, providers were also concerned that state/ territory policy and funding agencies may add extra ‘regulation’ to the national regulation and use inconsistent policy and funding levers that worked against the intent of the NRSCH. These issues are explored further in section 9.5.
Most multi-jurisdictional providers strongly supported the introduction of the NRSCH—although there were different views about the size of the net benefits likely to flow from the NRSCH.
Most multi-jurisdictional providers highlighted significant benefits in terms of reduced regulatory costs, opportunities to achieve economies of scale and greater access to private capital—all of which would support growth of community housing in the jurisdictions in which they operate.
A small number of multi-jurisdictional providers were more cautious about the benefits, indicating that the NRSCH was likely to deliver only modest improvements in attracting private finance so long as state housing authorities retain the ability to control the use of assets and prevent providers from using their consolidated assets as security for finance.
Both of these views were reinforced by finance sector representatives attending the national consultations. Positively, these representatives highlighted that national regulation matches the national approach of institutional banking—removing uncertainty about the robustness and consistency of regulatory controls across different state/ territory regulatory arrangements. At the same time, they cautioned that regulation was necessary but not sufficient to directly impact on the cost of borrowing. A lower cost of finance is ultimately related to the volume of community housing activity and certainty about the future growth of community housing—which depends on the policy and funding settings of government rather than national regulation.
In this context, all multi-jurisdictional providers remained concerned that while the NRSCH allows for providers to operate in multiple jurisdictions, state/ territory policy and funding agencies can still use the conditions of funding contracts or stock transfer agreements to undermine this benefit.
Further, there is concern that the interplay between the NRSCH and state/ territory control levers may either lead to the creation of complex corporate structures or a failure to take advantage of the combined balance sheets and cash flow needed to secure cheaper private finance (Submission 10).