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£2 billion boost will help build the homes our communities need

Neighbourhoods’ director Jan Goode attended the National Housing Federation conference last week when Prime Minister Teresa May announced £2 billion of funding for affordable homes from 2022. In her blog, Jan describes the difference this will make to the Group’s work.

Any significant funding to help secure money for social housing developments is a real boost, including here in the West Midlands.

It’s not just the investment that will make a difference but the fact that there is this top level acknowledgement of the crucial role housing associations play in resolving the housing crisis and improving the lives of people in our communities.

I was in the same room as Ms May, along with our chief executive Sarah Boden, when she told delegates how “housing associations have asked for our support and have our support.”

She acknowledged that for too long the housing association contribution has been ignored at the highest levels, saying that with their backing it was our time to act, building the homes needed and challenging attitudes that can sometimes hinder our work and transforming the way we think about delivering homes in the country.

Ms May continued by saying associations’ unique status as public interested, non-profit private institutions allows us to attract investment and deploy it to secure long-term returns on quality rather than short-term speculative gains.

She said that this combination of qualities allows housing associations to achieve things neither private developers nor local authorities are capable of doing.

This political support couldn’t have come at a better time for Housing Plus group. It coincides with the launch of our new Corporate Plan which sets out our ambitious vision over the next five years.

For example, we aim to grow the number of homes we manage from 12,000 to up to 20,000 by 2023. As well as growth through merger or transfer, we want to develop at least 300 new homes a year to meet a range of needs. At the same time, we want to grow our care services to meet the needs of an ageing population.

During her speech, Ms May went on to reference the tragic events of the Grenfell Tower fire, describing how the residents of the estate in west London felt ignored, patronised and overlooked by the managers of the estate.

She called on the sector to “be at the forefront of showing what good property management looks like” as well as changing the sometimes negative way people perceive social housing.

We pride ourselves on our high standards of repairs and maintenance, investing over £20 million in our homes every year. But good property management is more than this, and we hope some of our life-changing work will go a big way to altering those perceptions.

For example, because we are becoming increasingly efficient and easier to do business with, we can release time and capacity to focus on supporting customers who are most vulnerable, living in the most challenging circumstances and who need more help in sustaining their tenancies and achieving their potential.

During the last financial year, over 3,400 people attended our training programmes, including 1-2-1 support, job clubs and work placements. We also used National Lottery and European funding to help 92 young people get into work, education, training or volunteering and our money advice team supported 801 people, helping them to reduce debt, maximise income and budget effectively. Our support helped customers secure £1.4 million in additional income. This is just a snapshot of what we do and we will continue to strengthen this over the coming years.

One of Ms May’s comments that resounded most with me was when she said that with the government’s support, housing associations can be at the centre of fixing the broken housing market, building good sustainable homes which are truly affordable and creating thriving, growing communities –  carrying forward the torch of high-quality, affordable housing for generations to come.

And with our Group vision to be an excellent provider of homes and services, enhancing the quality of life for our customers, we are confident we will continue to do this in our region.