Predicting the unpredictable

It is an age old tradition to visit a fortune teller. Here, we assemble housing professionals to gaze into a crystal ball and tell us what the future may hold.

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Rob Warm, Head of Member Relations, NHF

Predicting the future is never easy. Anyone doing this in December 2016 would probably not have mentioned the key events that shaped the political and housing world in 2017.

But there are some things we do know about the year ahead. Firstly, the national conversation about the role and purpose of social housing will continue, with an interim report from the Grenfell Enquiry, a Green Paper due as well as a review by Labour.

As part of this conversation, we want to see housing associations speaking proudly about the work they do, the quality they provide and the role that they play. And if there are areas where we can improve, we want to be challenging ourselves, as a sector, to be the very best that we can be.

There is much else we want to see in 2018 – housing punching its weight in new devolution arrangements, a sector thinking seriously about how it will shape the future and our members showing the leadership and ambition to deliver the homes the country needs.

Also high on our Christmas wish list is a sensible solution to the funding of short-term supported housing. In 2018 we want to see these services secure the long-term funding that they, and their clients, deserve.

Our list is long and our ambition is high – but it needs to be. Government knows that housing associations are key to solving the housing crisis, and we at the federation will do all we can to help them deliver.

Homes for Wales,

Matt Kennedy, Policy Officer, CIH Cymru

As we near the end of 2017 there’s much cause for optimism in Wales – despite stubborn challenges remaining with us. Whilst the decision not to apply the Local Housing Allowance cap in the social sector bred a collective sigh of relief, the freeze on rates will continue to impact affordability more broadly. On homelessness, as demand increases, it feels that now more than ever we need a strong collection of Housing First projects that compliment other types of service provision.

With the roll-out of Universal Credit continuing across Wales in 2018, we must remain strong in voicing concerns and calling for a step-back by the UK Government to further fix the system. In a Wales context the uncertainty surrounding the Supporting People Programme grant will be a cause for concern and we’ll be keen to ensure the risk with merging the fund, or removing the ring fence is well-understood.

And in further progress toward protecting social housing, the abolition of the Right to Buy will be put into practice in Wales and we can expect legislation to abolish letting agency fees to be brought forward. For CIH Cymru, it’ll be an exciting time as we formally launch our Tyfu Tai Cymru project at TAI in April.

We know that a strong evidence base, informed and shaped by the expertise of members is one of the ways we’ll be able to overcome challenges ahead and build the flexibility to take risks, try something new, work collaboratively with communities and ultimately produce results that resonate across the UK.

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Jo Boaden, Chief Executive, Northern Housing Consortium

Within the Autumn Budget, the government announced further measures designed to help fix the broken housing market and to stimulate the building of more homes across England.

Looking ahead, the NHC shares the government’s ambition to create a housing market that works for everyone. To help achieve this, we have been progressing the recommendations made by the report of the Commission for Housing in the North: A New Framework for Housing in the North. Our recent consultation with members highlights growing evidence pointing to the importance of improving the quality of existing homes and places. It also demonstrates the need for new supply in place-based strategies if we are to make a real and lasting difference.

The report, developed in conjunction with our members, continues to guide our work and crucially, regeneration is back on the agenda. This year, we will be working towards gaining traction for regeneration with a framework that suits the needs and resources for the North in the current political environment.

We have also launched our Impact of Universal Credit report, a longitudinal research project to track the impact of the roll-out of Universal Credit on our members and their customers.

Over the next year, the NHC will continue to engage with, and influence, the national policy agenda. Our expertise and knowledge derives from the insightful views of the organisations we represent, and we will continue to build on this to ensure the voices of housing providers and strategic authorities in the North are strongly and clearly heard.

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Tom Murtha, former CEO

“One thing is clear, unless we see significant growth in social rent homes the housing crisis for many will get worse. By Christmas 2017 we will see more homeless people on the streets and more people living in poor housing paying rents they cannot afford leading to a further increase in poverty and inequality.”

This was my prediction for 2017. Sadly recent reports by Shelter and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation have shown this to be true. I wish it were otherwise. Despite the rhetoric of the last 12 months and the claims that we now have a government that listens and understands housing, I see little prospect of any real change.

The recent budget is a good indicator of forward trajectory. Piecemeal reform and no real extra investment in social rent homes is still the shape of things to come. Brexit will dominate the next 12 months until the government eventually falls. In my view, only a new government will bring about a change in housing policy and a slow improvement for those in the greatest need. The people housing associations were set up to serve.

In the meantime, many housing associations will continue to thrive as they build more homes for ownership and market rent and even less homes that people can really afford. The net loss of social rent homes will continue. The outcome will be that by Christmas 2018 even more people will be homeless and there will be a further increase in poverty and inequality.

 

Ali Akbor, Chief Executive, Unity Homes and Enterprise

“Our home is so much more than just the place we go to sleep at night. It shapes who we are, provides stability and security and shapes our life chances.” Those were the words of communities secretary, Sajid Javid, in last month’s Budget debate. I heartily agree.

But as the prime minister acknowledged when launching the government’s Race Disparity Audit in October, “We still have a way to go if we’re truly going to have a country that does work for everyone.” One area where inequality is particularly evident is housing.

The mid-1980s saw a clutch of new associations such as Unity being established to address the housing needs of black and minority ethnic communities. Three decades on, our existence continues to be necessary.

Research referenced by the Human City Institute confirmed a huge imbalance in average housing wealth between ethnic groups. This ranged from £221,000 for white households to £76,000 for families of African-Caribbean origin and just £15,000 for those from Bangladesh.

The figures are shocking yet not surprising. It is simple fact that in many towns and cities across England, a disproportionate number of BME residents live in areas with poor housing. Consequent disadvantages often include lower quality education, fewer employment opportunities and reduced life expectancy.

As we look ahead to 2018, BME-led associations relish the opportunity to work closely with Homes England and play a leading role in what flows from the Housing Green Paper.  I expect that we will be around for many years to come.

 

Jenny Osbourne, CEO, Tpas

Engagement has never been higher up on the agenda. In just the last 6 months Tpas have been invited to speak at more conferences than I have ever known before.

Suddenly from being the ‘old fashioned’ subject that no one really took much notice of, listening to tenants has suddenly become a buzz word in its own right.  Happily for those that have championed listening, informing and involving residents for years, tenant engagement is back on the agenda.

I can’t predict what the new Housing Green Paper will bring to the housing sector, but I can be confident of one thing. Change is coming for engagement and it can, and must, be a change that leads to tenants views being at the centre of landlord decision making and the sector re embracing its social purpose.

I have no doubt that all this new attention, interest and energy will bring innovation to engagement. We’re just putting the finishing touches to our ‘Hot Engagement Trends’ e-book that talks about innovative techniques that our members and clients will be testing out in 2018 such as ‘Gamification’, ‘Behavioural Theory’ and ‘Pop Up Engagement’.

We’re massive champions of any new technique that can stand up to our national engagement standards. In other words, techniques that enhance the reason why you engage with residents in the first place – to improve services, save money and bring positive lasting change to communities.

If you can honestly say that all your planned engagement activities in 2018 are about achieving this then whatever your tactic or technique, in our opinion, you’re going to do okay.

Cathy Come Home, Homes for Cathy

Chan Kataria, Chief Executive, emh group

Over the last 12 months housing has moved closer to the centre of the political spectrum. 2018 will be the year when all the solid campaigning we have done over the last few years will bloom and the government recognises that housing associations are its natural and willing partners to help end the housing crisis. We are already geared up to deliver, and the additional £2bn investment will see us hit the ground running.

Despite minor reforms around Universal Credit, we will see more people suffering financial hardship as it is rolled out further across the country.

Foodbanks will pop up in more and more places, and be visited by a wider range of customers, including health care professionals in full-time work. In tackling homelessness, the Housing First pilot in several cities around the country will become a squadron of initiatives as we strive to exorcise the ghost of Cathy once and for all.

In the aftermath of the Grenfell tragedy, energetic and charismatic leaders will emerge from communities giving a more powerful voice to the concerns of tenants.

In response, the Green Paper on social housing will create a fundamental shift in the relationship we have with tenants, and establish stronger and binding opportunities for them to have real influence on the services they receive. Collaboration will replace consultation.

Finally, Trump’s incendiary tweets will continue to alienate the world. How ironic it would be if when finally caught in his web of fake news he claimed that his Twitter account had been hacked by the Russians.

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Tony Stacey, CEO, SYHA

A year ago none of us would have foreseen a catastrophic fire which would turn the housing world upside down, a general election where housing (not Brexit) was the major issue on the doorstep, a dramatic U-turn on the LHA Caps, nor a simultaneous dramatic increase in both new supply and rough sleeping.

But a year later we can say, with some certainty that the overhang from these events will dominate the year ahead.

The year will start with a right spat over the HCA’s proposed new VFM standard. You know the one – cut out the investment in communities and build, build, build. I have yet to see one response that doesn’t take them to task over this.

Associations are independent organisations free to determine their own strategic aims to meet local circumstances. This comes first and not a top down, national diktat. Yes, we should be efficient in achieving our objectives.

No we shouldn’t bend our organisations out of shape to meet the political whim of the moment.

Probably the most significant change will be the reorientation of services back towards tenants. We must properly listen and put them back at the heart of decision-making. I sat listening to a tenants-only panel addressing the good and the great at a PlaceShapers’ conference.

I will never forget one young tenant saying “keep an open mind; you may think you have heard it 20 times before, but perhaps this time it will sink in.”

It has sunk in, hasn’t it?

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