A registered social landlord (RSL) is a not for profit, private sector organization that provides affordable housing to people of the United Kingdom (UK). These organizations may be housing corporations, trusts, companies, or cooperatives. Each registered social landlord is registered with a non-departmental public body (NDPB) that sponsors and regulates the RSL. A non-departmental public body is a public organization that runs with relative autonomy, but is ultimately accountable to the government for its actions and policies.
In Northern Ireland, every registered social landlord is registered with the Northern Ireland Housing Executive, in Scotland they register with Communities Scotland, in Wales they register with the Welsh Assembly, and in England RSLs register with the successors of the Housing Corporation. In 2008, the Housing Corporation was divided into two separate bodies: the Tenant Services Authority (TSA) to handle regulation, and the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) to manage funding and regeneration projects. A registered social landlord may raise private funds and apply for grants to build new homes, do regeneration projects, or invest in stocks. Grant applications come to a regional Housing Corporation office where the different RSLs’ bids are weighed against the needs of the community.
The British Parliament created the Housing Corporation in 1964 to manage English social housing providers. The Corporation used money primarily from the Approved Development Programme (ADP) to fill its role as the principle provider of funds for social housing services. Almost since its inception, the Corporation was responsible for developing most new homes and allocating funds to meet Regional Housing Strategies set forth by the Regional Housing Boards. Under the Housing Associations Act of 1985, the Housing Corporation was also obliged to sponsor self build societies. The housing associations have paid employees, while the Housing Boards tend to have many volunteers, including community members, politicians, and local organizations.
As the middle class expanded in the UK during the Industrial Revolution, there was an increasing need for new homes. Volunteer organizations that became housing associations began cropping up at this time to accommodate the growing need. Even more control of the housing market was given to housing associations during the Thatcher era, when many public houses were sold off at discounts. The prevailing wind of privatization also encouraged the shifting of council house stocks to private housing associations’ hands.
A registered social landlord is responsible for almost all new homes built in England since the late 1980s. Each nation has its own umbrella organization that represents the hundreds of RSLs. In Northern Ireland, that organization is the Northern Ireland Federation of Housing Associations (NIFHA), in Wales it’s the Community Housing Cymru (CHC), in Scotland it’s the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations (SFHA), and in England the National Housing Federation (NHF) represents the smaller associations.