The most interesting housing debates in a generation – starting in the North

Steve DouglasIt’s been a tough few years for the sector. Besides being the only ones to make any real dent in the housing crisis and continuing to invest in communities up and down the country, housing associations don’t have the greatest press.

The sector has been accused of being flabby and inefficient: the Homes and Communities Agency has expressed serious concerns that a number of providers have failed to demonstrate their ability to be either efficient or effective. We now face challenges around the proposed extension to the right to buy, a reduction in the benefits cap, and scrapping of automatic housing benefit for 18-21 year-olds, as well as housing’s share of the £12 billion welfare cut.

The next five years will be interesting.

From my experience housing associations have been responding to a tougher external environment and the challenges they bring. They are now thinking extensively about how they run their organisations and about how they can deliver more – both for less and with less – and how they can still remain viable and grow.

I’ve found that there are different approaches being adopted across the country. However the caricature that the challenge in London and the south is about responding to issues of affordability and capturing and recycling value, while the issues in the North are about tackling deprivation and renewal is a misleading one. While there are national perspectives and a national context, there are some big regional and locality differences as well as many similarities. If you know Macclesfield, Tatton, or Altringham – or the industrial heartlands of the North East – you’ll know that the issues of affordability and renewal can be found in equal measure in the north.

With this in mind and following a successful set of seminars last year the Northern Housing Consortium, jointly with Altair, will be running a series of one day seminars covering national best practice and regional context.

The first in the series, taking place this July, will focus on value for money and regulation.

Our examination into VFM and regulation will provide key messages from the regulator and important insight into how NHC members are responding to these challenges and expectations. It will cover new approaches which may help to revolutionise and strengthen your approach to regulation and to achieving and demonstrating value for money in your organisation. It will also include different approaches to organising your business, engaging with customers, and delivering and procuring services.

The second in the series will cover all aspects of regulation and governance, including compliance, assurance and managing risk, while the third seminar will take an in depth look at asset management at both a strategic and a practitioner level. Details on all of the seminars are on this website as well as the Northern Housing Consortium’s. You can also sign up to our mailing list to get the latest news and views from Altair.

Non-NHC members from other parts of the country are also welcome to join us. The debates that we will have over the coming year are likely to be the most thought provoking for a generation.