Posted by: Alison Thain11/06/2012
In this, the week of the Chartered Institute of Housing conference, I think it is an opportunity for all of us working in the housing sector to take a good look at ourselves to see if we’re really geared up to deal with the challenges facing the communities we’re here to serve.
In a period of such economic turbulence, how are we coping? Do we have the skills and understanding required throughout our organisations to do our jobs in the current climate?
It is a time for soul-searching as we ask whether we are challenging ourselves as professionals to address the biggest change to our social and economic landscape for more than 30 years. This means that the roles within our organisations, and the people who fill them, must adapt to these changes.
Cuts and changes to public services, impending welfare reform, mixed with the increased financial pressure on those individuals already most in need of support, are adding stress to communities which were already feeling the strain.
All of these things have a direct effect on what is required from us as housing professionals who work so closely with individuals and families in our communities.
This is not a culture change that can be directed from the top of organisations for others to follow. It has to become part of the DNA of everyone in the sector. From the individuals who answer the phones at our offices, to the chairmen of our boards, we must be ready to adapt to not only meet tenants’ changing needs, but to understand how and why people’s requirements are different.
This will mean not only improving the abilities we have, but broadening our skills and making them more contemporary so we can deal with the issues.
A second fundamental shift is that the broadening range of our tenant profiles. With the housing market in its current state of stagnation, greater numbers of people are unable to buy their own properties and are turning to alternatives, such as rental or shared ownership. Whilst this adds greater diversity to our community mix, many of these ‘forced renters’ will see the world, and their place in it, differently to those we have served for years.
It is vital that we all understand the changes that are happening now, that we move quickly enough to see what this means for the future, and how they affect the people we serve and housing as a profession.
The people working in our sector have a key role to play in society. If we or the people around us are not ready, then now is the time to rectify that, because if we are not in a position to meet the needs of our communities now, we will be even further behind when it comes to dealing with the challenges tomorrow will bring.
Alison Thain is the chief executive of Fabrick Housing Group and a member of the Tees Valley Local Enterprise Partnership
Alison Thain, chief executive of north east-based housing association Fabrick Housing Group, gives her perspective on key issues facing the housing sector.