“Invasive and annoying” is how the owners of Notting Hill’s most colourful homes describe the latest Instagram trend. Young adults, posing on doorsteps to create a digital fantasy of what is financially beyond their reach, an affordable terraced house in London. Their photos a reminder that the property ladder in the UK is broken beyond repair.
Housing Associations could offer a viable solution but must first undergo rapid transformation in the way they finance new builds and deliver services. At the same time there’s a practical realism across the sector that it doesn’t yet have the practical skills to respond to government pressure for rapid growth. This presents a challenge for leadership to think differently in terms of resource planning.
With demand for social housing outstripping supply 3:1 its clear that more homes need to be built but the sector lacks the deep analytics to identify what type? Get the mix wrong and HA face financially crippling voids. Research from Shelter shows that until the sector embraces analytics it won’t have the necessary insight to accurately meet demand.
At the same time leaders of housing associations are becoming increasingly alarmed by the rapid rise in private investors who appear to be playing monopoly with social housing. A recent investigation by the housing regulator concludes that investors are pushing Housing Associations to grow at an irresponsible rate when they have neither the governance or staffing structures or the depth of financial strength to meet investor demand for growth. Today HA boards need private sector financial expertise to accurately assess whether an investor is trying to exercise control over them.
Housing Associations are looking to strengthen their position through merger, acquisition and collaboration with each other. Again there is sector wide recognition the skill and experience necessary to make these successful will need to be imported from other sectors. Accelerating the process to acquire talent and thinking differently will become a necessity
Many are looking across at local government to learn how it has achieved efficiencies by becoming digital first and transforming delivery of services. There are certainly plenty of opportunities for experts with experience in local government transformation to transfer this experience to the housing sector.
Looked at all together, it’s clear that these issues amount to significant knowledge gaps in the social housing sector. Knowledge gaps which point to skills gaps that must be rapidly plugged if the sector is to transform in line with a rising demand for its services. This is where interims come into play to offer a rapid injection of insight, skill and knowledge at board level, and to deliver transformation projects. The search for talent will include interims outside of the public sector who can bring a commercial view – including transformation experts who are out of sector.
A stable home is a key requirement for any person to thrive. There’s no doubt that if we are to avoid failing an entire generation, social housing needs to transform fast, but needs the right people to drive change in a sustainable way.