Time to reflect before setting out our new strategy

Housing is in the spotlight. Even with Brexit dominating the national debate, housing cuts through in a way most other domestic challenges don’t. Affordability, quality, new homes, the tenant experience and the lasting impact housing has on poverty and life chances – these issues are only growing in importance.

Gill Payne, Executive Director of Public Impact at the National Housing Federation

Gill Payne, Executive Director of Public Impact at the National Housing Federation

24 April 2019

That means it’s never been more important for housing associations to look to the future, to be agile, and to be ready to respond to change.

At the Federation, we’ve been thinking about all this as we develop a new strategy that will guide our work for the next three years. We’ve been gathering evidence of the challenges facing the sector and finding out what issues are most important to housing associations. We’ll be launching the outcome of this work in the next few weeks, setting out the ambitious goals we want to achieve for – and with – you, our members.

But before we look to the future, it’s important to look back and reflect on where we’ve been. How has the unprecedented change we’ve seen over the past three years brought us to where we are now? And how have we – the Federation and the sector – responded?

From 2016 to today

The Federation last set out a strategy three years ago, covering 2016-19. We pledged to be a leading voice for our members, to strengthen the sector by creating an environment in which housing associations could thrive, and to be a customer-focused trade body.

Throughout the strategy was a commitment to flex our goals to move with changing times and, through our groundbreaking Futures programme, to promote the innovation and collaboration needed to respond. And change has indeed been the one constant theme.

Few predicted the Brexit referendum result that would transform the political landscape and bring lingering social and economic uncertainty. The snap General Election in 2017, another dose of political change, put housing firmly on the agenda. Then came the tragic fire at Grenfell Tower, which raised questions that have been at the heart of the sector’s work ever since.

Throughout all this, housing associations have remained focused on their core purpose and reaffirmed their place as anchors in communities around the country. They’ve kept delivering new homes, with an increase in new homes completed over the past year against the odds, and planned for an uncertain future.

At the Federation, in line with the pledges we made in 2016, we’ve supported members every step of the way. Ahead of the General Election, and in the two years since, we’ve built strong cross party relationships with politicians, officials and partners. We drove crucial policy reform, securing more funding for new homes and a rent settlement to bring much-needed stability.

We campaigned to halt the hugely damaging planned changes to supported housing, and we launched the Great Places commission to understand and challenge the inequalities faced by communities in England that feel left behind.

After the tragedy at Grenfell, we worked with members to reassure and protect tenants, most importantly through our work on the Hackitt Review. And, in partnership with our members and their tenants, we’ve launched Together with Tenants to create a stronger, more balanced relationship between housing associations and tenants and residents.

Looking ahead

So much has happened since 2016, and the years ahead may be even more unpredictable. We’ll need to be ready to flex, respond to changing events, and adjust our priorities just as we have done over the past three years.

We’ll need to build trust in what we do, reaffirm the quality of what we offer, and drive the delivery needed to end the housing crisis. We’ll look to the future and shape our role in it.

We look forward to sharing our new strategy very soon – and to working with you to deliver it.

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