Why housing organisations need to take note of the UK Housing Review
28 April 2023
Branwen Evans, Group Director of Sustainability and Policy, reflects on some of the key points raised within this year’s UK Housing Review and why it is so important for housing organisations to work collaboratively to ensure we are doing the right thing for our Customers.
At Places for People our priority is creating and supporting thriving Communities and doing the right thing for our Customers. As highlighted in the Chartered Institute of Housing’s UK Housing Review, as a society we all need to do much more to build more homes and invest in our existing homes so that they are fit for the future.
As the UK Housing Review highlights, there is nothing inevitable about the deteriorating picture of homelessness across the UK. While the outlook is gloomy, and the challenges can feel intense, we all need to raise our sights to the horizon and believe that we can and will do better.
The social housing sector has historically been very successful in attracting third-party capital and, since the Housing Act of 1988, has raised over £120 billion of debt finance to deliver much needed affordable housing. The Review highlights that there has been rapid growth in the use of equity investment to fund affordable housing in England. We agree that, far from seeing the growth of equity investment as somehow a separate sector, there is a huge opportunity to bring in these investors to increase the supply of affordable housing to help meet the increasing demand.
Delivering for our Customers has never been more important. The cost of living crisis is impacting most on people who are already on low or unstable incomes or relying on benefits, as food and essentials make up a higher proportion of their outgoings. There is a risk that more people will end up becoming homeless for the first time, as households struggle to make ends meet. And it’s only getting harder, with real household disposable income expected to have fallen by 4.3% in 2022-23 and a further 2.8% in 2023-24.
As a housing provider, we not only strive to provide safe, warm homes for our Customers but also provide support for our Communities. When times are tough, the support required from us increases. We set up a ‘Cost of Living Taskforce’ early in 2022 to provide practical support. This included a £750,000 Cost of Living Fund, offering rent relief and vouchers to support Customers with essentials such as food and fuel. Over the past year, we have seen week-on-week increases in demand from Customers for the support we provide. We have supported a network of 114 local charities in Communities that offer essentials for Customers such as ‘warm packs’ which include thermal clothing, door insulation, and hot water bottles. We are also in a unique position, with 29 of our leisure centres in addition to our supported housing developments, able to contribute to the national programme to provide ‘Warm Spaces’. But our help can only go so far, and we need Government to ensure that essentials like energy and food are affordable and that benefits increase at an appropriate rate so that people are not left behind.
Alongside tackling these practical problems, we face deep cultural problems that we cannot and will not ignore. Stigma has a significant impact on Communities and Customers. Stigma in social housing has been perpetuated over decades, and its eradication will require a multifaceted approach with conscious, consistent, deliberate, collective and sustained long-term programmes, policies and partnerships to change people’s perception. We have a responsibility to work together to change social housing and the narrative around it – so it again becomes a tenure people can be proud of.
Stigma in social housing has been perpetuated over decades, and its eradication will require a multifaceted approach with conscious, consistent, deliberate, collective and sustained long-term programmes, policies and partnerships to change people’s perception.
As said by Desmond Tutu, “There comes a point where we need to stop just pulling people out of the river. We need to go upstream and find out why they're falling in.” The UK Housing Review’s thorough analysis of the state of housing in the UK has helped to identify some of these causes by highlighting the crisis in supply and the intense pressure the system is under as we work to do the right thing for our Customers. Places for People’s aim is to make progress now so that the next review can tell a happier story, but we cannot achieve this alone. There is an evident opportunity, indeed necessity, for housing associations to work collaboratively in the challenging environment we face. The competition is not each other – it is homelessness.
*This blog was originally published on the Chartered Institute of Housing’s website on 27/04/2023