"Now more than ever, housing associations continue to demonstrate our societal, economic and environmental value."
The public health crisis we find ourselves in has tested us all in ways we probably didn’t expect just a few months ago. But as the housing association sector is so adept at doing, we collectively moved quickly, ensuring business continuity, supporting our residents and prioritising safety. Coronavirus has not only underlined the valuable safety net affordable housing provides but has also shone a light on the far-reaching value housing associations deliver in communities and neighbourhoods across the country.
The additional support services we provided through Clarion’s charitable foundation, Clarion Futures, have proved to be critical, with many of our residents finding themselves suddenly out of work, or facing new challenges looking for work and many, for the first time, having to access Universal Credit.
We have been able to shift our focus to employer partners in sectors experiencing growth, and during the lockdown supported many residents into work in supermarket delivery and food production roles. We also worked with the NHS and the DWP to recruit staff in line with the increased demand on the 111 call centre and the high volume of Universal Credit claims. Many of our residents will have formed part of the essential fabric of a workforce that has kept the economy going during this time, and we now find ourselves with a new definition of ‘frontline worker.’
Our employment and training service is just one of the ways we and other housing associations can play an important role in the country’s economic recovery. Every new home we build has an enormous positive impact beyond the social value of being safely and adequately housed. The economic benefits are felt by so many. From the architect to the materials manufacturer, the kitchen fitters and plumbers – we work with contractors who share our commitment to amplifying this multiplier effect, creating long-term sustainable communities.
Now is the time to innovate and think creatively to maximise every opportunity we have. At Clarion we have started to identify a programme of small sites to redevelop for social rent. These sites include land we own where the original use is redundant. We have an opportunity at these sites to deliver some innovative designs, utilising modern methods of construction to accelerate delivery. We hope to use these projects as test beds for future larger sites to deliver efficiencies, reduce waste, improve sustainability and drive economies of scale.
Now more than ever housing associations continue to demonstrate our societal, economic and environmental value. It will be a long road to recovery, and we have likely not yet seen the full impact of the pandemic on the economy. We believe collaboration is as key to recovery as it has been during the crisis. It’s going to take a collective effort and one of the best things we can do for the country is to provide good quality, affordable homes for those failed by the market, often the same people who have worked so hard to get us through this crisis. Building social and affordable housing must be a national priority.
Our homes have never been more important to us than they have been during the coronavirus crisis. For some people, home has been a sanctuary. For others, it has been a prison. Everyone deserves a safe, secure, comfortable place to call home. Not just now, in the middle of this crisis, but always.
Investing in social housing makes this possible. It will also boost the economy, create jobs and improve people’s lives when our nation needs it most.
That’s why we’ve launched Homes at the Heart, a national campaign and coalition calling for a once-in-a-generation investment in social housing.