Housing 2021 conference: The key topics providers should have on their radar14/09/21
This year’s Housing conference, organised by the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH), highlighted a number of current and future challenges experienced by both housing providers and residents.
Below, our Head of Housing Advisory, Chris Grose summarises and evaluates the relevant topics registered providers (RPs) need to be aware of, including sharing his own advice as well as tips from senior figures in the housing sector.
Results from Savills’ Housing Survey 2021
A large focus of the survey was around how the priorities for landlords have shifted in the past year. Examples of this were:
- +85% Stock Investment,
- +75% Tenant Support,
- +64% Community Engagement,
Development is still a priority for most RP’s, but is increasingly being taken over by these three key areas.
The survey also highlighted the constraints of achieving zero carbon such as raising additional cash flow and a lack of understanding of how much this will all cost in reality. On average it was estimated at £20k per home on top of other planned stock investment such as kitchens and bathrooms. Other attendees mentioned that their estimations were coming out at around £30k per home.
How many landlords feel that decarbonisation will affective their development aspirations? Only 30% said that investing in existing stock would affect their development plans, which suggests that there is still a healthy appetite to continue with existing development plans.
Savills explored the multi-dimensional approach to housing delivery with a good old fashioned pie chart. The various types of developments made up the chart as follows:
- Section 106: 19%
- Sites with permission, developed by the organisation: 22 %
- Sites without permission, development by the organisation: 17%
- Land and build package deals: 25%
- Joint ventures with for-profit RPs or new entrants: 10%
- Private new homes converted with grant to affordable housing: 7%
A couple of years ago, no doubt the Section 106s would have been well over 50%, but due to government policy changes, the sector has seen a dramatic fall.
All of the above is against a backdrop of high-profile TV documentaries around the state of the housing stock, highlighted by ITV. It goes without saying, that substandard accommodation is simply not acceptable for tenants, but this does also carry significant reputational risks for RPs. Boards are grappling with a ‘perfect storm’ at the moment, and the safety of tenants must always be priority number one.
The rise in anti-social behaviour during the pandemic
It was good to see that anti-social behaviour (ASB) formed part of the conference this year, recognising the significant rise during the pandemic. For me, it really highlighted the blight that ASB can have on residents’ lives, but also the effect that dealing with ASB can have on staff. In my experience, housing professionals want to do their very best for tenants suffering from ASB but, for lots of different reasons, sometimes cannot solve the problem.
It was great to discuss Capsticks’ approaches to supporting housing professionals with their resilience and how to stay resilient when they are being pressured most days. Many delegates spoke to us about some of the challenges they are facing with social care and the increasing need for them to support vulnerable people in critical conditions. Safeguarding responsibilities are clear, but it’s important that housing professionals can rely on their counterparts in Social Care and Mental Health Services carrying out their responsibilities too.
The road to consumer regulation: bringing tenants and residents with us
This was a really useful session with the new Director of Consumer Regulation at the Regulator of Social Housing (RSH), Kate Dodsworth. She emphasised the value of ‘meaningful’ engagement with residents and showing the evidence of how it is meaningful. One strong message from Kate was: if there is something that isn’t working now, do not wait for us to come and find it – if it’s not working, change it now.
Jenny Osbourne, Chief Executive at The Pensions Advisory Service (TPAS) gave a really passionate presentation about the journey of engagement, and how for some organisations it was about getting back to basics. Go and find out where the deafening silences are, and ask questions: How are we answering the phones? Are we dealing with repairs? Are we tackling ASB? These are the things that matter to tenants, so we must ensure that we get these basics right. Jenny reinforced the message from RSH by saying “don’t wait for regulation, get on with things now!”
Fayann Simpson, Group Board Member and resident at London & Quadrant (L&Q) highlighted some of the challenges that the organisation has faced in recent times, but how they have engaged with residents, engaged in difficult conversations and listened to their concerns. She said that it’s not always easy to hear it, but we must listen and then act. She highlighted how residents have been involved in the recruitment of senior staff and discussed the possibility of tenants being involved in the recruitment of operational staff too.
Many colleagues and clients shared how they were working closely with residents to improve services, standards of housing and dealing with complaints. However, it was interesting to note that there was little or no mention of residents or the social housing white paper in the housing ministers’ address to the conference. This might have been a little disappointing, but thankfully it was clear that the housing professionals in the room believed in resident engagement and see it as part of their role – regardless of new regulation.
There was a lot of talk at the conference around ensuring that housing professionals have the right skills to work in this challenging environment. Perhaps the sector has made some mistakes in the past, but it needs to ensure that we are recruiting not only on knowledge and skills, but core values and principles. An emphasis on customer service and doing the right thing really dominated a lot of conversations, which was really pleasing to hear.
All in all, it was a really fantastic conference and great to physically meet up and talk to fellow housing professionals. Debate was lively, and there was a positive attitude from delegates that, whilst there are many competing challenges and risks, we’ll all rise to the challenge, just like the sector always does.
How Capsticks can help
Capsticks Housing Advisory Service works really closely with clients to improve their approaches, learn new ways of working and feel supported in the important and difficult work that they do. Our values reflect your priorities – we care about what we do and aim to make a positive difference in people’s lives.
Please get in touch with Chris Grose if you’d like to hear more about the current topics facing the housing sector, or need any help with the issues discussed in this insight.