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Looking to the future of housing associations


Business transformation is an integral part of any ambitious and modern housing association, says Gary Fulford

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We all know housing associations need to be more dynamic, innovative and creative in the way they work. The National Housing Federation recently called for associations to “own their future” and ensure we communicate what we stand for, the range of what we do and our vision for the future.

Like many, whg is changing. We are embarking on an exciting transformation to ensure we are fit for the future. We were formed in 2003 as a result of a stock transfer from Walsall Council. Today, we are a regional business operating across the Midlands, providing not just homes but a range of community-based services.

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Our journey and our growth are continuing to accelerate. We recently launched our corporate plan, which sets out ambitious success measures up until 2024. This includes a strategic aim to “grow and expand our services, our reach and our range”. To respond to the housing crisis, our development programme is growing significantly and we are working with developers and local authority partners to help them address housing need and demand.

We are all well aware of the government’s aim to provide more homes. We are responding by building more mixed-tenure developments that offer homes to rent or to purchase via shared ownership or rent-to-buy options.

We are also about to start on site with our first open market sale scheme through our property development company, Anthem Homes. All of this contributes to our aim to own or manage 30,000 homes by 2024.

We recognise that to achieve this scale, we may have to devise a partnership with another like-minded housing association. Improving the service offer to our customers, delivering efficiency and cultural fit will drive any such decision.

“We are investing in our IT solutions to ensure we can make data-driven decisions that respond to our customers’ needs.”

Digital transformation is another key factor we must consider as our business moves forward. We are investing in our IT solutions to ensure we can make data-driven decisions that respond to our customers’ needs. Our ‘channel shift’ project will ensure customers are engaged with self-service channels that meet their needs, because we expect much of our routine customer contact will be delivered through this method in the future.

There are a number of projects at whg tailored to improve the health and prosperity of our customers. These include a range of community health initiatives, such as walking football for those aged over 50 and our 12-week weight management programme, Waist Away. We are also really proud of our pioneering digital and financial inclusion programme, Black Country Click Start.

We also realise that our dedicated colleagues are at the heart of our business transformation. We will continue to ensure we retain and develop our talent and we have recently launched an initiative called ‘Dare to Lead’, which will see another cohort of colleagues embark on a 12-month leadership course.

We have also invested in a unique scheme for colleagues known as ‘Be a Better You’, which focuses on improving the health and well-being of our staff. Our corporate plan is available on our website and I would encourage you to take a look and please contact me if you would like to discuss any aspect of our work further.

Gary Fulford, group chief executive, whg

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