In February we published ‘An Ambition to Deliver’ and made a very bold claim that by 2033 it would be an accepted truth that ‘if you want a great place to live come to a housing association.’ Six months in, with a general election approaching, we thought it was time for a progress report.
When we launched the vision, we asked housing associations to sign up to support the ambition. Many signed up immediately, some talked to their boards and then signed up, others are still considering it, thinking about what it means for them, and why it is important. We are now at 151 and counting.
For those still firmly in the ‘thinking about it’ camp, I hope I can help you make your minds up.
For our ambitions to have real weight, we need to show the whole sector is behind it, that we are committed to making a bigger impact together. If we can do this, we will be in a really strong position to persuade the next government that we are part of the solution to the current housing crisis, and when they understand that, what follows could be game-changing.
When we talk about the vision we say you can read it in three minutes. This is true, but it is also bad advice. You should read it slowly, take your time, then read it again. But if you still aren’t sure what the vision is saying, here are some pointers.
It is not a checklist and it doesn’t demand uniformity – but it is a commitment to acting as an independent social enterprise and all that entails. It is for you to decide your social purpose and what you want to do.
The vision talks a lot about increasing housing supply, which is to be expected – there is a housing shortage and we can help. We have said that by 2033 we could build 120,000 homes a year. Some have questioned whether this is realistic. It is not a prescription or forecast; it is exactly what it says it is – an ambition. It will be a challenge, but with the right leadership and system in place it can be delivered. Crucially we are clear this can’t be done without subsidy and we will continue to make the case for increasing capital investment.
But it isn’t just about building – it is about how we can do more and make a greater contribution, whether that is through extending our offer to more people with a wider range of housing needs, providing health, care and support, helping tenants back into work or regenerating neighbourhoods.
We don’t use the term ‘social housing’ – not because we no longer want to provide it, but because we don’t want to be constrained by the term. When we say ‘affordable housing’, we mean housing that is actually is affordable – not housing that is 80% of market rent as per the Government’s definition. We talk proudly of our social purpose and providing homes for those most in need is still very much part of that.
As we say in the vision, there is much we can do, and must do, ourselves. We can be more efficient, innovate, respond to local need and take control of our own futures. But if are to solve the housing crisis, the Government must show leadership and take bold action. We have explored some of the changes that would make the biggest difference and unleash the full potential of housing associations. If we show we are ready to step up and play our part then we can start to change the terms of the debate in this General Election and beyond.
So sign up, commit to your own ambitions, and watch this space…..