Programme highlights for 2019’s Social Housing Annual Conference

For those arriving early, the 8.25am breakfast briefing from Winckworth Sherwood provides registered provider and funder views on the new structures and funding sources that are becoming commonplace in the sector; and reveals the results from Winckworth Sherwood’s survey on the sector’s current approach to social housing finance.

At 9.10am the main conference begins, with Professor Christine Whitehead, London School of Economics discussing what is next for UK politics, the economy and the housing sector, alongside: Poppy Trowbridge, columnist for The Times and The Guardian and formal special advisor to Philip Hammond; and Lord Gavin Barwell, British politician and former housing and planning minister. With all that has gone on, it is sure to be engaging.

Our own Aquila Group CEO, Steve Douglas CBE, with CEOs of Paradigm Housing and Riverside: Matthew Bailes and Carol Matthews, will combine their expertise to look at the future positioning of the sector, and the case it should be making for public investment, in the wake of a new government, new operating and regulatory environment, and how this helps housing-provider-delivery and investment capacity.

Julian Ashby, former Chair of the Regulator of Social Housing, will do the regular annual sector update, and provide his guidance on where the sector should be focused; before a session on the impact of Brexit for housing and the role of providers in supporting communities and local economies in these unsettling times.

The UK housing sector as an investor proposition is a continued theme throughout; and we will finish the morning with a very interesting debate between: Pete Gladwell at Legal and General, Rob Belley at Trowers and Hamlins, Karln Erlander at S&P Global Ratings, and Martin Watts at L&Q. They will assess the convergence of for-profit and not-for-profit, and the appropriate balance between commercial return and social outcomes. Followed by the launch of Savills research into these private investment opportunities, and before a deserved break for lunch.

The afternoon will be equally thought-provoking as a panel of experienced housing leaders look to the sector’s core purpose and how business plans offset having tenant and customer issues at the centre, with achieving targets to deliver quality new homes.

Accent Group, Great Places and Peabody will share their secrets to evolution through innovation; whilst Radian, Stonewater and Coastline reveal their experience of joint ventures and partnerships to boost delivery of homes and services to residents across the sector.

Meanwhile, there will be two business streams throughout the afternoon, offering in depth advice in these key areas of focus for executive teams:

  1. Impact investment and ESG (environmental, social, governance) in UK social housing
  2. Safety and quality across the social housing sector

To finish we may be faced with some harsh truths, and a call to action to unite as a sector and fix the ‘broken housing market’ reflecting the 2016 Housing White Paper’s call to arms. With David Cowans, Chief Executive of Places for People, Sarah Smith, CFO of Optivo, and Polly Neate, Chief Executive of Shelter we will get an understanding of how far we’ve come to building a stronger, fairer Britain, and a real sense of what now needs to happen. It is clear that there is still much work to be done, to make the case for housing understood and accepted by those beyond the housing sector, but there is a strong desire to build that case which is a cause for hope.