Scottish Housing Associations embrace FoI

The Scottish Federation of Housing Associations has hit out against proposals to extend the Freedom of Information Act to social landlords.

The Scottish government has been using a discussion paper to canvass opinion on extending the law to housing associations, local authority trusts and contractors who provide public services.

Such a move would allow the public to access and request information from these publicly funded bodies, which are not currently covered by the Freedom of Information Act in England or Scotland.

But the SFHA said it was not necessary to extend the law, adding that 83 per cent of members opposed any changes.

Policy and strategy manager Alan Stokes said: ‘The sector involves tenants to a great degree through governance arrangements and compulsory tenant participation strategies. With these measures and the regulatory framework in place, housing associations are not only open but also extremely accountable.’

Treating housing associations like public bodies could also threaten their borrowing restrictions, he added.

The National Housing Federation said it agreed with the SFHA and it would oppose any extension in England.

NHF assistant director Helen Williams said: ‘Housing associations are independent and a key part of the third sector, with many being charities. Extending the Freedom of Information Act to them would be inappropriate as the act is meant to apply to government and its agencies.’

Scottish associations oppose FOI change (Inside Housing, 9 January 2009)