An update from Boris Worrall, Group Chief Executive Rooftop Housing, and Chair of the West Midlands Regional Committee.
With a change of government, the first stage of Brexit ‘done’ at the end of January and the announcement of a new Regulator of Building Safety within the Health and Safety Executive, we begin 2020 with the potential for significant change in housing policy, investment and regulation.
So the National Housing Federation West Midlands Regional Committee was delighted to yet again welcome the NHF’s Chief Executive Kate Henderson to our meeting this week. Kate was able to provide a detailed overview of the current and future landscape, with a budget due in March, a Comprehensive Spending Review in the summer and the long-awaited White Paper on social housing also due in the coming months.
It is clear the political landscape has dramatically changed with over 100 new MPs, and a government with a significant majority for the first time in a decade. We can therefore expect radical change across government priorities and departments, as well as possible changes to consumer regulation and upwards pressure on the need to demonstrate value for money, with the CPI +1% rent settlement in place… at least for now.
It was welcome then to hear that with all this change, housing associations in the West Midlands are doing what they do best – continuing to support customers and communities while delivering thousands of new homes. Starts were up in Q2 2019/20, both on last quarter and on the same quarter last year. It is clear that we are responding well to the Homes England strategic partnerships and the rent certainty, which we need to continue if we are to push on driving up supply.
We can expect an even greater focus on home ownership and have a great track record with a popular and growing product – Shared Ownership. We will need to effectively continue to promote this with politicians, especially those who are relatively new to the housing world.
The Committee has set its priorities for the year ahead. We will retain our focus on supply, homelessness and working together to create a stronger sector. We will also this year develop a workstream to explore and evolve customer service and the customer voice, alongside the NHF Together with Tenants initiative. We will devote significant time and effort in aligning our engagement with MPs to ensure we continue to build on the strong partnership with government established in recent years, especially with the new intake of MPs.
So yes there is huge change ahead; but housing associations have a long history and heritage of evolving to whatever operating environment we face. In that sense it is and will remain for the most part ‘business as usual’ as we focus on continuing to do what we do best every day – providing new homes, support and services to our thousands of customers across the region.
Finally, we are holding the next Leaders Conference for chief executives, directors, chairs and board members on 28 February, when the theme will fittingly be stakeholder engagement. We have already secured a senior MP as a speaker and will have Kate Henderson yet again in the West Midlands to share her insights at this critical time.