Why it matters to think about the future shape of the sector

2018 may be a watershed for the sector in England.

The report on the Grenfell fire tragedy is set to report this year and will cast a spotlight on the management of social housing.

We have a Green Paper that will fundamentally review the role of social housing.

We have a new Regulator of Social Housing, with fewer powers to control or direct the activities of Registered Providers.

We are already seeing the rise of new entrants to the delivery and management of social housing.

We are challenging our leadership on its approach to diversity of thought and representation.

And we have a different economic context for housing associations, and a different set of expectations from our tenants, residents and customers.

It is within this context that I’ve been pleased to be invited to sit on the Commission looking at the Future Shape of the Sector, supported by Clarion, Network Homes and L&Q.

It’s a commission, whose membership, led by the former Cabinet Secretary Lord Turnbull, is independent and will challenge assumptions about how we deliver and manage homes in the future.

Whilst recognising the massive contribution that housing associations have made to meeting housing and community needs over decades and centuries, we’ll not be fearful of thinking about what a different future might look like, if housing associations are to continue to make a relevant and recognised contribution.

It’s not an introspective debate about large versus small, or London versus the rest of the country. It’s about what place the sector, in its many different forms and guises, holds in influencing and shaping the policy discourse around social housing, community and place.

We have a new Housing Minister, a new investor in housing in Homes England and a new regulatory regime. Over the past few years we have re-established a place at the housing policy table, but our presence there is fragile and subject to the predilections of a particular minister or policy agenda.

However, we now have an opportunity to shape our own future, and to reconnect with our social purpose, as a sector. The many thought-provoking responses to the Commission’s call for evidence from residents, government agencies, academics, think tanks, representative bodies, consultants, as well as housing associations, suggest many feel, as I do, that this is an opportunity we should seize, for the long term benefit of our communities.

I’m looking forward to the visits, the debates and freedom to think beyond what we’ve always done, to what we might do and might be in the future.

The Commission is due to report in the summer of 2018.

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This article was first published in 24 Housing in Jan 2018

Steve Douglas is Co-Chief Executive at Altair, part of the Aquila Group of companies.

He can be contacted on 07810 152840 or steve.douglas@nullaltairltd.co.uk

 

Commission members

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