It was a great day on Monday catching up with colleagues from across the housing sector at Savills’s Annual Housing Seminar.
It is a time of political uncertainty as we approach the general election on 12th December, but it was encouraging to hear how unified our sector is in striving to improve standards and outcomes for residents.
Some of the key messages from the day included:
1. There are key differences between the main political parties in terms of housing objectives. Whether we will be entering a period that focuses on home ownership, or homes for rent, will be determined by voters on 12th Dec. Is your Board ready to react?
2. Safety of residents is the primary duty of all housing providers and this should not be compromised. This will include significant financial investment, but must start with understanding your stock. We have been supporting a number of RPs understand their obligations, particularly to leaseholders.
3. The quality and sustainability of existing accommodation should be addressed as we aim to achieve carbon neutral targets. The cost of this, including health and safety works, will impact on the volume of new homes that can be delivered. Realistic timescales need to be agreed to ensure the sector can deliver everything that is needed. There will be hard choices ahead where refurbishment of existing stock to meet new environmental and health & safety standards may be simply uneconomic in certain cases and the provision of new housing to re-home residents in such circumstances will be particularly critical.
4. A significant increase in new homes delivered by local authorities is expected. There are challenges, particularly around accessing the skills needed, but the capacity and financial strength is there to deliver many new homes. What is critically needed from central government is a consistent, long-term housing policy.
5. RPs should be driving innovation to ensure sustainability. Planning ahead will help ensure you don’t invest in the wrong technology. On some of our projects, RPs are collaborating together to allow investment in new ideas. Whilst the provision of modular housing is increasing, it is not yet being produced at scale.
6. RPs won’t necessarily be counter-cyclical in any future financial downturn. Government support is needed to ensure new homes can still be built. It is incumbent on RPs to emphasise to policy makers the critical social value and social return generated by housing providers in helping their residents into employment through the training and support programmes they run, as well as associated reductions in healthcare and crime-related costs.
7. To ensure the safety mistakes of the past are not repeated, RPs should take control by ensuring they understand the construction process, and site supervision, internally. It is no longer enough to delegate control to 3rd parties. Training and procurement processes should reflect this.
It has been a great day, and we are very grateful to Savills for hosting us all.
Please get in touch if you would like to discuss any of these issues further.