Comment: In good working order

In an ever-changing housing world, good governance is the order of the day. Boards looking at yesterday’s landscape may see a very different view tomorrow.

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Good governance is apparently the answer to everything and it is hard to find anyone that is against it.

Bad governance on the other hand is a terrible thing and surprisingly easy to spot with hindsight.

However, it is surprisingly hard to spot when governance that was once good enough is no longer fit for purpose.

This is a constant challenge for all boards and something that as a regulator we see people grappling with day to day.

Very often we see positive examples of good governance: boards that are regularly challenging themselves and their organisations about whether they are fit for purpose and whether they are delivering their objectives.

It is only very rarely that we see providers where the governance is so poor that they cannot deliver their mission or are actually destroying value and endangering their legitimacy with stakeholders.

However, more than we would like we see, there are boards where ‘good enough’ and ‘maintaining the status quo’ seem to be the implicit assumptions.

One of the lessons from the last 10 years, with the credit crunch, austerity, rent cuts, deregulation, the need for more homes and the responsibility of the sector post-Grenfell, is that boards have to deal with an ever changing landscape and the status quo and good enough for today are unlikely to be much use tomorrow.

In this context our new Value for Money (VfM) Standard will offer an opportunity for boards to reflect and challenge themselves about whether they are fit for purpose and whether they are delivering as many of their objectives as they can.

At the heart of our VfM Standard is a belief that it is the duty of boards, as the custodians of long-term housing businesses, to articulate the objectives of their organisation and translate these into challenging goals that stretch the contribution they can make to the communities they serve, both now and in the future.

While we have set out some defined financial metrics, it is not for the regulator to prescribe providers’ objectives.

We will take considerable comfort about the governance of an organisation where the objectives and goals are clear and well understood so that providers can demonstrate how they are performing in delivering them.

Housing is in the public consciousness like never before and the demands being placed on housing providers by their various stakeholders can create tensions.

Understanding this makes having clearly explained objectives all the more important, not least because it allows legitimate challenge.

And it’s pretty obvious that organisations that understand what they are trying to achieve will be best placed to attain long-term success.

 

This piece originally featured in the April edition of 24housing. To read more like this, you can subscribe now for just £65 a year.

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