Thursday, 23 October 2014

Housing associations prepare for new role

Housing associations must forge new relationships with their tenants to help with increasingly squeezed finances, according to a report released today.

A report by the left-wing think tank The Smith Institute says that the ‘relationship between housing associations and their tenants is at a crossroads’.

‘On the one hand, all social landlords aspire to improve customer satisfaction and performance, but on the other they have tough decisions to make on rent levels and arrears and to ensure value for money,’ it says.

Social hearted, commercially minded examines the changing role of housing associations and challenges they face as they adjust to a future with little or no subsidies.

Fifty leading players in the sector were interviewed in late 2012 and early 2013 including housing association chief executives and senior staff, board members, developers and politicians.

The report finds one of the big tests for housing associations is the penalty for under-occupation of social housing, or ‘bedroom tax’.

It suggests some housing associations might end up subsidising the government and it would be ‘difficult to evict a family for the sake of £11 a week’. However others vowed to ‘take a tougher stance from the start, for fear that if they don’t it will hurt their balance sheet’.  

The research found the general view among housing associations was they will concentrate on tenants who are in work and not – or at least less – reliant on housing benefit.

‘This has provoked some councils to claim that they are left carrying all the burden of housing the most vulnerable,’ the report states.  

‘All the policy drivers are pulling associations away from housing the very poorest, which is placing enormous pressure on councils to allocate more people in the private rented sector.’

Other findings in the paper are:

  • Bond financing is set to increase
  • Associations have mixed views on the viability of developing homes for private rent
  • There are concerns associations have the skills at board and management level to thrive in a more commercially minded environment
  • It is a widely held view working more closely with local authorities will be key moving forward.

Neil Hadden, chief executive of Genesis, which funded the report, said: ‘The world in which housing associations operate is subject to far reaching and rapid change. We need to evolve to cope with these changes if we are to survive and thrive.’

The report concludes: ‘[The housing association sector is] still using [its] housing asset base to act for the good of society. All the money they earn, all the surpluses they make, are ploughed back into providing and managing more homes, getting more people back into work, or caring for the ageing and vulnerable.’

Readers' comments (7)

  • SER YEK

    The report concludes: ‘[The housing association sector is] still using [its] housing asset base to act for the good of society. All the money they earn, all the surpluses they make, are ploughed back into providing and managing more homes, getting more people back into work, or caring for the ageing and vulnerable.’

    Not true, at worst a blatant falsehood, at best a gross exageration. Within the last few years a south east HA has moved away from and dumped "caring for the ageing and vulnerable" with the architects of the dumping now running amok within G15 and associates. Relevant articles have been a regular feature within IH articles. The focus now being concentrated on customer experience nonsense.

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  • ManWithAbacus

    Yet more talk... where is the delivery.

    "Socially Hearted, Commercially Minded" may describe some association or may simply be the two categorisations used to describe groups within all associations.

    The simple facts of life are this...

    There are almost as many people waiting in housing need as the sector currently houses.

    Sector delivery is falling and some associations have stopped attempting to address the housing waiting list through new delivery.

    In the 33 boroughs of London alone there are over 200 HAs. In the most fought for local authorities there are more than 40 associations competing to deliver.

    The cost base of the sector varies dramatically and only some of this can be explained by differences in underlying activities but saving 20% of the £10bn cost base would unlock borrowing capacity of c.£40bn.

    Given the housing crisis and current levels of delivery what the sector really needs to be is "Commercially and socially minded with hearts filled with passion to house more people".

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  • C'mon Sense

    Most people seem to forget that the role of associations has changed considerably over the last few years, now being the social glue responsible for all of societies ailments. It's no wonder they sometimes drop the odd plate whilst trying to keep the rest spinning!!!

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  • Give the power to residents direct. Housing is about people and not HA and ALMO business plans that got it wrong for decades. Residents have enough of remote sitting managers who make decisions by looking at spreadsheets, statistics with questionable methodolgies and bonus linked tasks. Sticking to that may safeguard the HA staff's job in the short-term but does terrible damage to the affected residents. Well run, motivated and empowered TMOs are the answer.

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  • "forge new relationships with their tenants"... Please sign this Goals form or try new provider. Be pro-active or homeless... the new choice based lettings.

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  • As they're showing their true colours of late, merging into the high end rental and mortgage sectors, it would be more honest to say that Housing Associations seek new, more profitable tenants. Another stink tank quango spending more public money on its elitist social engineering directives.

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  • After a recant phone where a guy laughing when I asked to downsize with united welsh housing association ,l do not want them talking to me.

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