What does the new year bring for housing association board members?

Baroness Diana Warwick
Baroness Diana Warwick

Diana Warwick, 21 Jan 2020

It’s been just over a month since the General Election, and I know you’ll have been thinking about what the new political landscape means for your organisation – and the sector more generally.

With a new government comes new opportunities – a chance to tell our sector’s story, renew our engagement, and build new relationships. And the new majority government will mean more stability and certainty – so Parliament can focus on pressing domestic issues that have taken a back seat due to Brexit.

This doesn’t mean there won’t be challenges ahead – we’ll continue to make the case for new social rented housing, as well as affordable home ownership, and I know that there are concerns about what Brexit could mean in practice for the sector.

Your role as a board member is crucial to ensuring we make the most of these opportunities.

We want to support you to make the right decisions, and to provide the leadership and guidance our sector needs to forge a constructive relationship with the new government.

So what might 2020 bring for housing association board members?

Housing associations as community ‘anchors’

We know the new government – and particularly new Conservative MPs in the North and the Midlands – are likely to take a keen interest in regeneration and placemaking. Housing associations are uniquely placed to act as community ‘anchors’ – committed to and investing in places and people for the long term.

Last year, the Great Places Commission published its recommendations, which focus on communities in the North and the Midlands. We’re working with our members to embed these across the sector, and to demonstrate the potential for housing associations, working in partnership with the government, local stakeholders and communities, to deliver thriving and successful communities. 

A stronger relationship with residents

The Government has announced its plans to publish a Social Housing White Paper early this year, which we anticipate will cover many of the same issues as the 2019 Green Paper – including trust, transparency and accountability. We’re already showing leadership in these areas through Together with Tenants, which is a useful framework to consider how you work with residents, make and communicate decisions, and ensure all your residents can get involved.

We’ll be rolling this out across the sector later this year, and getting this right will be key to demonstrating our commitment to a stronger, more open and balanced relationship with residents.

Tackling the big issues

This year is likely to be a critical moment for our sector, as we consider – among other issues – how we’ll build the homes needed, deliver the highest standards in building safety, and continue to get to grips with the challenge presented by the climate crisis.

We’ve listened to your feedback and in 2020 we’ll be working with you to develop our work on tackling the climate crisis. We’ll also continue to keep you updated on important developments around building safety, and work with you on key issues including supply.

The Federation can help

We’re organising another programme of events and webinars this year on issues that you’ve told us are important to you – including building safety, assurance, and risk. We’ll also be convening regional networks for board members to connect, share knowledge and discuss ideas.

This year we’ll also be working with you to review our Code of Governance. We’re launching a consultation on the key principles of a revised code at the end of this month, and we want to hear your feedback. The new code will launch in early summer, and there will be plenty of opportunities for you to feed into the process.

Our Board Excellence in Housing Conference is just around the corner on 6-7 February, and is an ideal moment to meet your peers and discuss some of the sector’s biggest issues. I hope to talk to you there.