I get to turn up in fantastic towns and cities across the country to a warm and enthusiastic welcome and I get to stand up and say ‘Hello Newcastle!” I should add that is about as far as the analogy goes – unfortunately I can’t sing or play the guitar.
Kate Henderson is Chief Executive of the National Housing Federation
7 November 2018
None the less, I have loved my visits so far. It’s a wonderful opportunity to learn about the people, places and partnerships that make housing associations so effective and inspirational.
A month into the role, I wanted to share some reflections from these initial meetings and events I’ve had in the great cities of Coventry, which hosted the Midlands Economy and Infrastructure Conference, and in Newcastle, Cambridge and Leeds, where I attended chief executive forums.
Everyone I have met, whether they work for a large or small housing association, inner city or rural, has been committed to providing good quality homes that people can afford.
Housing associations are ambitious about building more homes and recognise that attracting the right people with the right skillsets is a critical part of this. There was a great discussion at the East of England chief executive forum on how the housing association sector can ‘grow our own skills pipeline’, and this will be a key challenge for the coming months and years.
I’ve learned about the places in which you work, often as anchor organisations who do far more than providing bricks and mortar. I’ve seen your work to support people into education, training and jobs, and seen how you’re embedded in your communities, deeply aware of the challenges and opportunities your residents face.
Housing associations are at the forefront of tackling the housing crisis, and what is clear from my visits so far is that while the need for more affordable homes affects every part of the country, it plays out in very different ways.
This was summed up perfectly by a member of the North East chief executive forum, who said: “We are a diverse sector, agile and solution focused, which makes us well placed to deal with local issues.” I wholeheartedly agree. And partnerships and collaboration are also key, because housing associations can’t solve the housing crisis alone.
I’ve heard about positive partnerships between housing associations, partnerships with councils and combined authorities, and the new strategic partnerships with Homes England. At the chief executive forum in Leeds, we talked about the untapped potential of many smaller housing associations. There’s a real opportunity for them to contribute to the supply of new affordable homes with larger housing associations playing a supportive, enabling role. By harnessing the power of partnership working we can achieve even more.
I’m really looking forward to meeting more members around the country over the next few months – in meetings and forums, at events, and out in the field, seeing the great work you’re doing. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the issues above, so please do comment below.