Change, challenge, opportunity: our response to the changing housing landscape

04 November 2015

Since the General Election there’s been a major shift in housing policy, with significant impacts on the social housing sector.  A raft of changes have been set out in the Housing and Planning Bill and the Welfare and Work Bill.   

Here our Chief Executive, Nick Horne, explains how we’re responding to those changes: 

“2015 is the most significant and challenging year the housing sector has experienced in decades.  Government plans for increasing homeownership and reducing the welfare bill will have a huge impact on housing associations, including us, and on many of our residents.  

“In particular, the Government requirement for us to reduce tenant rents by 1% a year for the next four years present us with a significant challenge. Whilst it may be good news for many residents, as they’ll be paying less for their homes, it means we must reduce costs and scale back some services. The action we’re taking ensures we remain a financially robust organisation.  It also means we can continue to support residents and their communities and build new affordable homes, albeit on a smaller scale. 

“We’re embarking on a three year cost saving programme, which will see changes to the way we work. We’ll work with residents and partners as we re-scope services to make sure that together we achieve maximum value for money. Inevitably, the significant reduction in our income will mean some job losses.  Thankfully, our strong financial position means we’ve been able to keep potential redundancies to under 20.  

“In terms of meeting the huge demand for new homes in the West of England and Somerset, the rent reduction policy does mean that we’re having to reduce the number of homes we build by around a third. The good news is that in 2015/16 we’ve already completed 190 new homes and we’re on track to build another 770 in the next three years. 

“One of the Government’s objectives is to increase homeownership and we’re supporting this through a shift in the make-up of our development programme.  34% of the new homes we build will be for sale through shared ownership, up from 15% in previous years.  Our other new homes will be for affordable rent at 80% of market value.

“There’s no doubt that we will face challenges in the months and years ahead.  We are in a strong position to tackle them head on.  As well as the challenges, there are also opportunities to improve.  We will seek innovative ways to drive our business forward, to ensure we remain strong and to enable us to meet our core purpose of creating better futures together.”

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