Embracing future challenges in partnership
Earlier this week, Mike Parkin (Group Director of Finance & Corporate Services) and I met up with four staff members of the National Housing Federation – Rob Warm, Catherine Ryder, Rhys Moore and Katie Teasdale (Catherine and Rhys travelled up from Brighton and London which was very much appreciated). The session was really productive and has left me energised and positive about how the Federation will be supporting the sector going forward.
It was assuring to hear the Federation’s stance on addressing the multitude of challenges we face. To do this, it knows that it must work with members in new ways. There is a clear acceptance of the need for change as we move towards new and more commercialised models of delivery.
These positive conversations have left me feeling that it is important that we, as a sector, are mindful of the Federation’s role and its relationship with government. The Federation acts as a bridge between organisations and politicians. If the message it receives is that government wants us to build more homes, then it’s right to convey that message to us - and we should not be guilty of shooting the messenger. Too often in the past, RPs have seen the Federation as an easy target in terms of being critical. There needs to be an understanding that it cannot be all things to all people, at all of the time – we need to recognise the excellent work that it’s doing with finite resources.
The political landscape has changed. There is a strong sense that housing associations and groups such as ForViva are now seen as part of the solution to the housing crisis. We cannot underestimate the work that the Federation have done in terms of building a much stronger relationship with central government from which we will hopefully all reap the benefits.
However, as we look to the future, it is clear the focus of government will be on strategic, international challenges – with the Brexit negotiations top of the agenda.
As the international agenda dominates, and leading politicians throw their energy and resources into negotiations, (and developing relationships with the new President of America) we must find ways to deliver domestic reforms.
This could see more power and responsibility devolved to junior ministers, giving them the freedom they have long desired to make meaningful progress.
Across the sector, organisations are facing up to the reality that we must adapt to survive. We should accept this is reality and embrace change as an opportunity.
We cannot sit back and simply wait for the security that comes with political and economic stability. Years of inactivity is not the way to address the long-term challenges citizens and communities face.
We must be creative and flexible to find ways to move forward with the schemes and projects we want to deliver.
It is refreshing to see the Homes and Communities Agency embracing more risk. There is a big gulf between bravery and recklessness, and providing we have proper planning and exit strategies in place, should they be needed, we will always fall on the right side of that divide.
Some deals and partnerships that have been announced in recent weeks may have raised eyebrows. But we should welcome new ways of working together – especially if the result is to increase supply. One partnership that has created much interest has been that of Trafford Housing Trust and London & Quadrant. Conspiracy theories seem to be the order of the day in relation to those dastardly southerners encroaching onto our precious North! In my view this is complete nonsense. THT and L&Q should be praised for developing an innovative model that is going to significantly increase the supply of available properties in the North. We should be looking for more of these types of partnerships rather than being protective of our own “empires”.
We should remember that embracing new business models doesn’t mean we’ve lost our values. Far from it. We just need to be realistic that we need to find new ways to deliver and fund social impact.
Profit should not be a dirty word, but a vehicle for creating better places to live and opportunities for thriving communities.
The team from the National Housing Federation’s willingness to take the time to have honest and productive conversations about tough challenges is very much appreciated. The Federation also shared with me details of its new “buy as you go” model. In ForViva’s view this has real legs and will hopefully again increase the supply of units – credit to the Federation for continuing to innovate during challenging times.
Our meeting has left me, and ForViva, positive about the future – and our role and the approaches we are taking in solving the housing crisis.