It’s probably true to say that more has changed in the operating environment for housing associations in the last few years than most of us can remember. Since the last Code of Governance was published in 2015, our sector has been tested time and again to respond and adapt to issues not in our control, and to show leadership on those that are.
We’ve been asked serious questions about our relationship with our residents, the safety and energy efficiency of our homes, and whether we are doing enough to address the lack of diversity at the top of our sector. These questions have been asked by the regulator, the government, our residents and communities, and the media. But we’ve also been asking these questions of each other.
It is in this context that we have published our new 2020 Code of Governance. We have strengthened the focus on accountability, equality, diversity and inclusion, safety and sustainability. The code also addresses organisational culture and sets out a requirement for boards to take into account the importance of maintaining trust and upholding the reputation of the organisation.
To ensure boards are ready to lead the sector through the challenges of the next few years, not least responding to the expectations in the draft Building Safety Bill and dealing with the consequences of the pandemic, we want the new code to make organisations stop and think. We know complying with some aspects of the new code will not be immediately straightforward for all organisations, but working to meet the new requirements provides an opportunity to ensure governance arrangements are robust and fit for the future.
We have also recently launched the national rollout of Together with Tenants, our initiative aimed at strengthening the relationship with our residents. Taken together, the Code of Governance and Together with Tenants signal our sector’s intent and commitment to responding positively to the important question raised by our residents – are we as transparent, open and accountable as we can be?
Residents on the Together with Tenants tenant advisory panel and the Code of Governance advisory group have been instrumental in guiding this work. They have challenged us to think and work differently – making sure the new code and the Together with Tenants plan address the views and concerns of residents.
In the two years since the publication of the Social Housing Green Paper, both the government and the regulator urged housing associations not to wait to take action on important issues such as resident involvement and stigma.
Together with Tenants and the new code are evidence that we haven’t delayed in providing a strong basis for us to move forward as a sector, united by our shared social purpose. But they can only go so far. To continue to build confidence in the sector, we need to show leadership beyond the expectations and requirements set out in the code and Together with Tenants, particularly on issues fundamental to public trust – accountability, diversity, safety and climate change.
I am confident the new code will encourage, challenge and support our sector to continue to strive to meet the very highest standards of governance as expectations change, underpinned by a culture of integrity, openness and inclusion. I urge all housing associations to adopt both the code and the Together with Tenants charter to ensure the housing sector continues to listen to its residents, and is equipped for any future challenges.