This article was corrected on 3 June 2014. See final paragraph
The Office for Civil Society has asked the Homes & Communities Agency to become the principal the regulator for charity law compliance of almost 600 housing associations with exempt charitable status.
Ben Harrison, policy manager at the Office for Civil Society, told a conference last month about the move, but added: "These discussions are ongoing and so I can’t give you a clear answer at the moment."
HCA figures provided by the Charity Commission show there are around 600 social housing providers that have been established as community benefit societies and which hold exempt charitable status.
Exempt charities cannot register with the commission, and, in most cases, they are all ready regulated by another body. Appointing a principal regulator ensures they are properly regulated as charities, a spokeswoman for the commission said.
She added that community benefit societies are currently registered by the Financial Conduct Authority and the HCA regulates any societies classed as social housing providers, but only in their role as housing providers. The HCA does not currently oversee charity law compliance by this group of social housing providers.
Under the proposed change, HCA would become the principal regulator for charity law compliance of community benefit societies.
A spokeswoman for the commission said in a statement: "If the proposed change takes place, community benefit societies would still be exempt, but we would have some involvement, as HCA would be responsible for overseeing these charities’ compliance with charity law and collaborating with us to resolve any problems."
She added that if the HCA declined to become principal regulator of exempt charities that are social housing providers, it is likely that they would lose their exempt status and have to register with the commission.
An HCA spokesman would not be drawn on what the agency’s likely response would be. "Government is considering principal regulator options and we are working with them on that process," he said.
A further 600 social housing providers are registered with the commission as either charitable trusts or charitable companies, according to figures supplied by the commission, but these providers will not be affected by the proposed change.
Correction: this article originally said that HCA had been asked to become the principal regulator for housing associations with charitable status.