The Social Housing Sector has had to deal with a huge amount of change in recent years. The unexpected one percent rent reduction has created financial pressure and the constant re-classification of the sector has led to many associations having to change their business plans, find efficiencies and define or re-define their purpose.
These changes, coupled with the extension of Right to Buy, the introduction of Universal Credit and the Government‘s target of building one million new homes by 2020 leaves the sector with significant challenges.
NRG regularly speaks to the senior leaders within the North East’s Housing Associations. The business strategies we discuss with Chief Executives tend to fall into the following areas:
- Providing the best homes possible and improving customer experience.
- The increasing role of development in the remit of RSLs and the exploration of novel ways to approach the housing requirement. Examples would include the use of steel frame construction methods and mixed use tenure within the social and private rented sector.
- How to achieve channel shift in the customer service offering away from face to face to digital first.
- Merger and acquisitions, efficiency improvements and IT driven projects.
- The requirement to continually review business strategy and expand commercial activity to compensate for reduced grant and rental income.
- Investigation and research into the future products and markets for the Social Housing sector.
- The decision to manage maintenance in-house or to outsource.
Social Housing in the North East
The North East region has seen significant changes and merger activity in the Social Housing landscape:
- The merger of ISOS, Cestria and Derwentside into Karbon Homes.
- The formation of Thirteen through the merger of Erimus Housing, Housing Hartlepool,
- Tees Valley Housing, Tristar Homes and Thirteen Care and Support.
- The creation of County Durham Housing Group.
- The Bernicia and 4 Housing merger.
- The restructure of Gentoo.
All of these major projects are a direct response to the changing financial landscape in the sector and the continuous drive for efficiency. We are also seeing a change in emphasis in the sector towards appointing more commercially experienced senior candidates. There has been an increase in appointments from the private sector to help re-shape the organisations and explore external commercial opportunities.