There have been many articles talking about the shifting landscape for developing housing associations – ever since the Conservatives reached an unexpected majority after the May 2015 election and now our Brave New World post Brexit 2016.
At the end of August, Inside Housing reported huge falls in development within London contributing to a 15% drop in new homes registered across the UK. And there is a fear that borrowing costs for development will increase and a downturn in house prices will make homes for sale a riskier proposition.
Where does this leave smaller and specialist housing associations and those without significant development programmes and expertise? Some of us have spent a long time arguing that these organisations are dynamic and fleet of foot – able to respond quickly to opportunities and be truly connected and accountable to their communities.
In London, the GLA is keen to support such associations to achieve their full potential in growth and performance. They have taken the innovative step of promoting ‘Smalls Champions’ who attended the last G320 group of smaller associations meeting to state they were keen to listen and keen to support them in practical ways such as bids and inputting data on the infamous IMS system.
However, in recent months it feels like the momentum may have swung again, with larger organisations being consulted and encouraged to merge to become even larger, to increase capacity to deliver more. But there is a wealth of activity being undertaken by smaller and medium sized associations that can still make a valuable contribution. Many smaller organisations are considering how best to respond to the new economic environment, including the value for money agenda and some of their initiatives are noted below:
- Discussing stock swaps/purchases with other smalls to improve their cost per bedspace;
- Sharing back office functions and overheads;
- Working with larger developing housing associations acting as their development agent;
- Offer management services to others as well as other specialist services such as major repairs or managing maintenance contracts.
It is often mooted that the biggest barrier to doing more is the innate suspicion between housing associations and they are often suspicious of other peoples’ motives – but the co-operation demonstrated with BME London Landlords and previously with SolFed in South London shows that genuine collaboration is possible and that smaller organisations have very little to lose and everything to gain through effective joint working.
Both in London and beyond, there are many groups and forums of associations of different shapes and sizes. Many are talking about how to position themselves for the future. The GLA want to support those in London to do more. With a government aspiration still to build more homes, there is an opportunity at a national level for medium and smaller associations to seize the initiative.
For more information, please contact Meera Bedi on 07968 888 021 | firstname.lastname@example.org