The Housing Association sector is currently going through some unprecedented challenges. Among them, the changes to rent calculations, the right to buy extension and the ever increasing profile of the housing crisis, particularly in London. These are the kind of events that shift the balance of how a whole industry functions, or even creates new industries. On one side are constraining effects, such as closing down traditional funding streams and restrictions on rental revenue. On the other side are ever increasing customer expectations, competition from private sector builders, and public expectations to be the saviours of the housing crisis.
As some of the traditional solutions have ceased to work, new ways must be found instead. Board Members, Chief Executives and Executive Boards are analysing the changing landscape and looking for innovation. A portion of the Housing sector is up in arms about recent changes, particularly the Right to Buy. Alongside them though are a group of people seeking the opportunities where the others see doom. By focussing on finding silver linings, instead of starting at the clouds, new ideas are starting to emerge.
The Housing Association sector has a compelling narrative for attracting investment. It offers a way for money to be invested in bricks and mortar, while improving lives for many of the people struggling in today’s cut-throat society. The recent suggestions of large private sector funds being invested in affordable housing is one example of the way the sector could evolve, with Housing Associations shifting their funding streams. Offering different solutions to tenants and first time buyers is another, as is changing the complexity of planning and building processes.
There is a need for housing that will not go away. If the government can ensure that the pathways are opened to allow the right ideas to be implemented, then I believe the Housing Associations and other large landlords will be able to find and introduce solutions. Having the space and freedom to think of these ideas is one reason I believe Housing Associations were willing to trade the Right to Buy rules in order to maintain their independence. That independence will be crucial to how innovative the sector will be.
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