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Announcement:

Moody's: English housing associations face pressures from funding cuts and potential changes in regulation

Global Credit Research - 12 Jul 2010

Credit strength of housing association sector to continue to benefit from strong regulatory oversight

London, 12 July 2010 -- " Based on recent announcements in the UK budget, Moody's anticipates cuts in rent subsidies for tenants and in direct capital subsidies for English housing associations (HAs)", says Moody's Investors Service in a new Special Comment. However, although the government is also considering changes to the regulatory framework of the sector, Moody's believes that a significant weakening of regulation is unlikely to materialise. Strong oversight will therefore continue to support the credit strength of what has been a secure, government-related sector to date.

"Whilst the details of reforms may take many months to emerge, difficulties in implementation could potentially be negative for the HA sector," says Gianfilippo Carboni, an Associate Analyst at Moody's and co-author of the report. For example, the rating agency points out that substantial cuts in housing benefits could increase rent volatility and potentially lead to lower margins for HAs. Due to the complexity involved in reforming housing benefits within the broader web of social support programmes, the furthest-reaching changes could take many months, if not years, to implement.

A more immediate impact could come from a sharp cut in capital grants, leading to increased debt and steering HAs towards more high-risk commercial activities, such as reliance on market sales of properties, in order to cross-subsidise their operations. Moody's says that the impact of lower government funding would vary between individual HAs and would depend on their business models, appetite for risk and risk-management capacity.

Another consideration includes the potential reform of the regulatory framework of the social housing sector. "A significant weakening in financial monitoring by and intervention powers of the regulator, currently the Tenant Services Authority (TSA), could weaken credit quality in the sector, which by design operates with low, not-for-profit margins," notes Thomas Amenta, a Senior Vice President and co-author of the report. "However, in Moody's view, significant changes to the sector's core financial regulatory framework are unlikely."

Moody's will monitor the path of reforms closely for potential credit impacts. At present, the outlooks on Moody's public ratings of housing associations are stable. Moody's currently rates ten housing associations in the UK, whose ratings span from Aa2 to A1. The high investment-grade ratings largely reflect Moody's view of a strong regulatory framework and high government support for the English social housing sector.

Moody's new report, entitled "English housing associations face pressure from funding cuts, potential changes in regulation", is available at moodys.com.

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London
Gianfilippo Carboni
Associate Analyst
Sub-sovereign group
Moody's Investors Service Ltd.
JOURNALISTS: 44 20 7772 5456
SUBSCRIBERS: 44 20 7772 5454

London
David Rubinoff
MD - Sub-Sovereigns
Sub-sovereign group
Moody's Investors Service Ltd.
JOURNALISTS: 44 20 7772 5456
SUBSCRIBERS: 44 20 7772 5454

Moody's: English housing associations face pressures from funding cuts and potential changes in regulation
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