House building targets can only be met if housing associations at least double their annual development output of new homes by the 2020s, a new report has concluded.
According to the Future Shape of the Sector Commission, a body created by Network Homes, L&Q and Clarion Housing Group, housing associations must deliver around 80,000 to 100,000 new homes a year and sustain this figure, in order to support the delivery of 300,000 homes per annum.
A report by the commission acknowledged that this would be a “major upscaling” that will require “real change in financial innovation and risk management, strategic use of assets, use of new technology, inter-association collaboration and co-operation, and partnerships with others”.
Furthermore, it noted that continued access to affordable land and government subsidy will be needed to increase delivery of homes at sub-market rents and prices.
This was one of several recommendations designed to ensure the housing sector “grows and changes in the best interests of customers, stakeholders and society at large”.
The commission also concluded that housing associations must “recognise and seize” a “crucial moment of opportunity” that currently exists for the sector, given the new political consensus about the scale of the housing crisis and the importance of social rented and affordable housing in particular.
Indeed, it stated that the flexibility and diversity of their business model, their commitment to social purpose, and the differing constraints on other providers mean housing associations are “uniquely well placed to respond to the housing and social challenges of the 2020s”.
However, the report stressed that while they can achieve “a great deal through their own resource and commitment”, they could accomplish much more with additional support and subsidy from key partners in both local and national government.
This, it suggested, must be earned by “demonstrating their unfailing commitment to their customers and communities” and “reviewing the landlord service offer from beginning to end”.
The Future Shape of the Sector Commission also suggested that in order to fully take advantage of the opportunity that exists at the moment, housing associations will need to change their governance models significantly.
This, it said, would mean board members have to be more “knowledgeable, involved and integrated into the working of their organisations than ever before”.
Each association would also require “clarity of strategic direction”, it continued, as well as “greater diversity of skills and experience at board level” and more openness and transparency to customers and stakeholders.
Helen Evans, chief executive of Network Homes, said the sector is keen to deliver as many “genuinely affordable” homes as it can, both for social rent and for others whom “the housing market is failing”.
However, she stressed that the Grenfell Tower disaster should serve as a reminder to housing associations to “keep the people who live in our homes front and centre”.
Ms Evans added that housing associations should rethink the service they offer “for a digital age” and ensure they maintain the trust of residents and other stakeholders.
For further information on any of the points raised in this article please contact Andrew Murray in our Social Housing Team.