New sector regulator worried stricter lending will prevent troubled housing associations being saved

The chief executive of the newly formed Tenant Services Agency has requested urgent talks with banks amid concerns that lending practices might prevent the bailout of struggling housing associations.

Peter Marsh, whose agency is now responsible for regulating housing associations, said he would meet the Council of Mortgage Lenders (CML) this week to try to ensure the development capacity of social landlords is not damaged by the collapse of another association, following the fall of Ujima earlier this year.

The Housing Corporation said last week that a number of associations, particularly those that have developed shared-ownership housing, would be left “significantly exposed” by the housing downturn.

Previously, the corporation, from whom the Tenant Services Agency has taken over the regulatory role this week, has dealt with financial problems by merging struggling associations with larger, more successful ones.

However, Marsh said potential rescuers were being told lenders would not support the mergers without tearing up associations’ existing funding deals.

He said: “There is capacity for rescue, but the biggest impediment is lenders’ attitudes to the repricing of existing debt.”

However, Andrew Heywood, deputy head of policy at the CML, said lenders had little option. He said: “If the risk of an association changes, there is a desire to look again at existing lending.”

The preferential funding rates that housing associations attract have been key to their ability to develop. However, lending has become more expensive since the credit crunch and the slowdown of shared-ownership sales.

More on the launch of the TSA and the Homes and Communities Agency at