An update from Boris Worrall, Chair of the West Midlands Regional Committee
5 February 2019
There’s so much going on in housing right now it can sometimes be hard to see the wood from the trees. And at the last National Housing Federation West Midlands Regional Committee we certainly had a huge amount of critical work to consider, reflecting this dynamic operating environment.
The headline topic was plans to host a regional summit for tenants to consider the practical implications of the Social Housing Green Paper consultation; we want tenants from across the region to meet, talk and give feedback on the actual changes they want to see to areas such as complaints and performance indicators – what matters to them in their daily lives. The plan is to host this event in the spring, probably in central Birmingham. It will be organised by the Federation and the Matrix Partnership, which hosted the successful roadshow with residents and then Housing Minister Alok Sharma MP in 2017. The Federation will promote the event when we have finalised the details.
Linked to this, the regional committee is broadly supportive of the need for stronger consumer regulation, most probably built into the existing National Housing Federation Code of Governance and regulatory framework. We all feel keen to embrace this agenda, in a way which works meaningfully for everyone; most especially customers.
It was great to have the new National Housing Federation Chief Executive Kate Henderson with us for the meeting and it provided an invaluable opportunity to understand the current political dynamic, what the Federation is pushing for and to feedback the priorities for the region. We also discussed the Voluntary Right to Buy Midlands pilot, which housing associations signed up to support. What is clear is that housing remains (below Brexit) a top Government priority and with a Comprehensive Spending Review coming before the summer, we remain seen as a critical and positive partner by the Treasury, Number 10 and other key Government departments. Kate has been incredibly busy in recent weeks engaging on a wealth of topics, not least welfare reform where the committee gave a strong steer on the impact it is having on local people and communities in the Midlands.
We had a detailed discussion about increasing the supply of new homes and what more the Government and we can do to address the housing crisis. Many (although not all) housing associations are already pushing their business plans to deliver as many new affordable homes as we can; land and developer viability issues around affordable housing allocation in planning were flagged among the key topics for the National Housing Federation to pursue.
There was also an engaging discussion about the Great Places Commission following the West Midlands visit in December. The final report is out in the coming months and we will be submitting views from a regional perspective – much of our debate focused around the need to invest in existing homes, funding for that and our increasingly critical role as community anchor organisations.
Finally, huge thanks to Diane Lea, Chief Executive of Staffordshire Housing Group as she retires from the committee. We now have three vacancies and would welcome expressions of interest from any chief executives, particularly against our current membership priorities of rural/north and Black Minority Ethnic-focused organisations. It’s a lively, vibrant and incredibly useful group I find a real privilege to co-ordinate. Please contact Kate Warburton if interested before the end of February 2019.