NHF Finance: Commercialisation and technology among leaders’ priorities

But new report outlines broader concern as to whether digital risks are properly understood at board level.

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Rapid adoption of innovative technologies is a key emerging risk in the housing sector, with the challenge underpinned by broader concern about whether digital risks are properly understood at board level.

With NHF finance underway in Liverpool today (20th May), Major housing insurer Zurich Municipal publishes the findings from a series of interviews with housing leaders calling attention to the complex challenges now facing providers – with technology and commercial activities to generate profit topping the list of the opportunities and threats facing the sector.

The report highlights the rapid adoption of innovative technologies as a key emerging risk in the housing sector.

Underpinning this challenge is a broader concern about whether digital risks are properly understood at board level.

Allison Whittington, Head of Housing at Zurich Municipal, said: “The UK housing sector finds itself under immense pressure to meet targets set by the government and deliver affordable housing solutions across the demographic spectrum.

“Whilst accelerating commercial activity, which in turn provides capital funding for further investment, as well adopting new technologies can help housing providers achieve the above, it is very important for housing leaders to understand the risks they may bring.

“Managing those risks accordingly is crucial to building thriving and resilient communities.”

The report recognises many associations are adopting a ‘Robin Hood’ model – selling homes to fund their investment in social housing – with some taking on additional services that have little hope of generating returns, such as social care, which can contribute to building community resilience.

There is also acknowledgement that associations have a crucial role in providing the right blend of housing to meet the needs of different demographics, including the ‘working poor’ and younger people who cannot afford to buy.

But while housing associations across Britain face many common challenges, the report sees CEOs in Scotland responding to these challenges very differently given the political, economic and social landscape they work in.

One of the key challenges facing associations in Scotland is outlined as the government’s ambitious target to build 50,000 affordable homes by the end of the current parliament in 2021.

Of that figure, 35,000 are earmarked for social rent.

The report says the challenges – for some at least – are finding land to build on and complex relationships with councils.

However, both north and south of the border, Brexit, universal credit and poverty top the list of pressing issues that have a significant impact on the housing sector as well as the communities they operate in, the report says.

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