An opportunity for change
Whisper it quietly, but social housing still has a bright future.
Despite the hard hitting headlines, and those who preach doom and gloom, I have no doubt that our sector has a major role to play in the future of housing in the UK.
The rules have changed – that much is clear. The last two budgets have set out the Government’s emphasis on homeownership, and we are still coming to terms with new commercial realities of the one percent rent cut, the LHA cap and Right to Buy.
But like all industries facing change, we have two choices. Adapt, or die.
A seismic change to how we are used to operating can be daunting, but it is also an opportunity. By shifting our focus we can not only become more commercially minded, but also seek to build in greater resilience to the communities we serve.
Social housing providers have been guilty of holding a paternalistic relationship with our customers. We talk about ‘our’ communities and neighbourhoods, but in reality they belong to the people who live there. We need to become a facilitator and enabler for change.
At ForViva, we have addressed this challenge and devised our new Community Impact Strategy that sets out how we, through our members City West Housing Trust, Villages Housing Association and ForWorks, can affect change for customers and communities.
The strategy is tied to the group’s vision of ‘Improved Lives’ – enabling people and neighbourhoods to forge key partnerships and build social connections in order to thrive, and passing the ownership of these communities over to the people who live in them.
Importantly, this strategy recognises that we can no longer be all things to all people. We are not social workers, nor are we the police. Instead, we must focus on delivering on our core services and, of course, building homes across a variety of tenure.
But at the same time, we can be a valuable partner to organisations and service providers by working together to improve the quality of peoples’ lives, increase access to education and work and encourage residents to play an active role in their neighbourhoods.
By creating self-reliant communities that can help themselves, we are creating a legacy for our projects and partnerships that have a real value – both social and financial – for ourselves and our residents.
Tim Doyle, Group Chief Executive, ForViva