Facing the future

I’m really looking forward to our first in person Stakeholder Strategy Day for three years and the opportunity it gives us to bring board members, customers and colleagues together to discuss our future direction.

Some of you will recall that in the run up to the last Stakeholder Strategy Day in Liverpool we wrote a series of blogs looking forward as we started to plan for our 2020-23 Corporate Plan. In the first blog of the series, we wrote “it’s difficult to look a few months ahead, let alone three years” – I’m not sure anyone could have guessed how true that would be!

The landscape seems even more difficult to decipher now, but this is the perfect time to try as we start developing our first Corporate Plan since One Housing Group joined the Group.

So what do we know?

Even setting aside the implications of the pandemic, the past few years have been busy for social housing, with a Planning White Paper, Social Housing White Paper and Social Care White Paper being published as well as the Fire Safety Act finally becoming law and the Building Safety Bill being introduced into the House of Commons.

Already in 2022 Government has published a Levelling Up White Paper and set out a new approach to Building Safety.

Since the last Stakeholder Strategy Day there have been two new housing ministers, a new Secretary of State and even a name change to the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC).

Customers and colleagues are also facing a cost of living crisis; the cost of living has been increasing across the UK since early 2021 and in January 2022, inflation reached its highest recorded level since 1992. Indeed, OBR are forecasting that inflation will reach nearly 9% in the last quarter of this year, with real household incomes dropping by over 2% across the year – something that would have been unthinkable a few years ago. A key driver of this is energy prices, with the energy price cap rising by 54% from April 1. Household budgets will be further squeezed by changes in taxes and benefits set to come in in April.

This bleak economic outlook, together with the Government’s own domestic policy agenda gives us a feel for what’s to come over the next few years and how we’ll need to respond. This is likely to include:

  • Continued focus on customer service and resident engagement, especially in the context of the declining reputation of the sector
  • The need to maintain the momentum on tackling Building Safety
  • The need to support our customers, many of whom will face hardship and poverty
  • Continued and increasing focus on sustainability and decarbonisation
  • The need to build more and continue to tackle rough sleeping and homelessness.

But despite the promise of new legislation and the increasing requirements being placed on housing associations to act on these issues, we also know that the cupboard is bare – Government is unlikely to be in the position to provide any significant additional funding.

Whilst the uncertainty of the past few years makes it tempting to bury our heads in the sand, this is precisely the moment where our movement needs to step forward – this is why we exist. Our job is to navigate these changes and challenges and set a course for the next three years.

In truth, we are in a strong position to face the future – all the stronger for the additional capacity the merger will bring in the long-term. Not only are we more resilient, but real opportunities will open for us – we now need to make the right choices.

So, in the run up to SSD let’s all get our thinking caps on so we can make the most of our time together.

We’ll use this website to provide you with practical details, but also provide some links to stimulating articles. We may even do some polling. Look out for updates- -we’ll keep you informed.

Looking forward to seeing you in May. 

Hugh Owen

Director of Strategy and Public Affairs