Bigger Can Be Better

This week has seen the announcement of proposals to merge two large housing associations, Genesis and Thames Valley. If the proposals are accepted then the new organisation will create a 47,000 home landlord, one of the major players in the sector.

Genesis is an organisation that is very close to my heart, so this news is of particular interest to me. The people there do their jobs with a real social purpose, it is also the most diverse and inclusive organisation I’ve worked with. The announcement may be read as a response to the political pressures on the industry and that upsizing is a way to cope with the changes. However I believe there is more depth to this merger and from my perspective I think it makes sense on a number of levels.

Thames Valley has a strong reputation for their commercial ability. Their financial modelling and partnership working are very strong. Genesis has long been striving for greater commercial focus, with the caveat that they refuse to abandon their social heart. Thames Valley will strengthen the commercial side. Geographically they are almost a perfect match, with the core of each organisation’s properties standing side by side, creating a natural flow from the Thames Valley, through West London and across the capital into Essex and East Anglia. This should make some of the traditional housing management challenges created by mergers less of an issue.

Both organisations have a proud development record, and the news that the merger will include the building of more new properties is also positive news. At a time when housing supply is short, a supply of 3,000 new homes per year should be celebrated. That 1,800 will be affordable is even better and the fact the new organisation could deliver 600 of those to in the form of affordable rent shows Genesis is still keeping to its social roots, despite an increasingly tough environment. I don’t see how a smaller operator could deliver that number of homes at that rate.

The future of housing associations appears to point to further mergers and more consolidation. There have been mentions in the press of discussions affecting many of the G15 that could lead to activity at a level last seen ten years ago. It is easy to forget that Genesis came from five individual associations merging, and that those associations were also the result of previous mergers. This natural consolidation will happen as the sector seeks progression and greater levels of efficiency. I do believe though, that despite the timing, this merger is one that would have made sense in any climate and will create a major player within the South East’s housing market.

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