The role of housing providers in stimulating the economy, creating new jobs and improving wellbeing

Photo of Colette McKune, Group Chief Executive at ForViva
Photo of Colette McKune, Group Chief Executive at ForViva

Colette McKune, 02 August 2020

The second half of 2020 will be focused on recovery. 

The world is adjusting to the global pandemic and we are preparing for an economic downturn. Now we must ask ourselves what our role is to be in shaping the post-Covid society and what we can do to provide stability and stimulate recovery.

The delivery of new homes will be vital in the coming years.

Not only does construction of new homes create employment opportunities, but it has a wider economic impact across the supply chain that in turn stimulates growth.

As private house builders put the brakes on new development plans, it is essential that our sector is able to step up and help to fill that gap – particularly when there will be an even higher demand for truly affordable housing over the coming years if the recession is as deep as predicted.

We already had a housing crisis. We knew we needed more homes before the outbreak. It will be on us to stimulate the house building sector and create training and apprenticeship opportunities that will increase resources and enable the push towards the number for homes we require.

Modern Methods of Construction (MMC) could be a key part of quick capacity building. With modular homes manufactured in a controlled factory environment, MMC could boost volumes, speed up delivery and increase energy efficiency. It would also help to fast-track new training and employment opportunities.

During the lockdown a large proportion of our developments continued on site, closely following government safety advice and guidelines.

By mid-May all our contractors were back on site, operational and working in Covid-safe ways, and we currently have schemes on site of an aggregate value of more than £111m.

Planning for the future

Social housing providers have shown their value to society in the immediate aftermath of the lockdown. Now we must show our ability to support the longer-term recovery.

Having visibility of long-term grant funding along with the flexibility to adjust the tenure type on schemes would be a massive benefit.

As economic conditions and market factors change, this would help to reduce risks across a range of housing developments and mean landlords can build more homes.  

We very much welcome the government extension of the Affordable Homes Programme with £12bn of future funding. However, we are mindful that low cost home ownership products are not necessarily suitable across all communities, and certainly not in some deprived areas.

We hope enough allocations are made for social and affordable rent homes, which would support us in our purpose to improve lives.

Supporting local suppliers

We are acutely aware that we are reliant on local contractors, suppliers, sub-contractors and consultants to deliver our schemes.

Supporting them has been an absolute priority. If there is a reduction in supply chain capacity, it will severely hinder our ability to deliver the future homes that are so badly needed. This is one of the big lessons from the last recession.

We have a contractor framework, which ensures that local contractors can secure and deliver schemes, create training and employment opportunities and the expansion of the local skill base.

Providing training and improving wellbeing

A key part of supporting the economic recovery will be ensuring that people can continue to access training and new skills and opportunities. 

Our enterprise team supports local companies and people, so they have the skills necessary to successfully secure and deliver work and in turn grow the local economy.

We run the Liberate Academy, which delivers state of the art courses and industry training for the construction and property services sectors to the highest standard. We also work in partnership with other organisations to provide training and support to people who need it.  

During lockdown we launched our new wellbeing strategy. The strategy is all about delivering services that are people-focused and creating an environment where people can thrive with access to better opportunities, new connections and increased chances for prosperity.

Economic and social inequalities are getting wider. Now, more than ever, we must demonstrate our social purpose and work with tenants and communities through the tough times that may be in front of us.   

The time is right for the housing sector to increase supply, create training opportunities, stimulate the wider post Covid-19 economy and level-up the housing market.

Homes at the Heart

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.