Will we remember the autumn statement of 2015 as the starting point for something new, and maybe if we say it quietly enough, something radical for social housing? Ignoring the changes on benefits for the under 35’s for a moment, the absence of bad news or even just further policy meddling in social housing took many of us by surprise, given what has happened over the last year or so.
At the very least many hope that the autumn statement heralds a period of stability. We didn't see the tax credit reversal being paid for by further attacks on social housing, nor the ending of the energy supplier obligation and in a we never-dared-hoped-for moment the renewable heat incentive survived and there was even new – proper new – money for communal heating.
Inevitably there have been a variety of responses to the recent deluge of never ending bad news. Some have been thrown in to a state of panic, others have decided to simply to ignore it and some have decided to manage their way out of it year on year. However, there are increasing numbers out there who are not thinking about the next few months or even the next 12 months, but are thinking about what their organisation will look like in five years – ten years even - and what services they will deliver, how they deliver them, how they pay for them and what it means for their customers and their organisations.
Decent homes may not have left the building, but many think it is starting to at least look at the bus timetable. It would be premature to report the death of decent homes, and we will wait until the review of the regulatory regime, but its clear that it is no longer the be all and end all of asset management. There is a new desire to think beyond elemental asset management and to think about homes in terms of asset performance both for customers and as well as long-term viability of the portfolio.
The question is, is it time to start being brave again? I know that the smart ones are beginning to plan on that basis and are now putting together the new pieces of the jigsaw that have been thrown in to the air over the last year. Its early days yet, but the housing providers we talk to are now beginning to lift their heads and look to the horizon.
Is there a different way to look at those assets and think of them not just in terms of their demand on resources, but also what value can be generated either through new revenues, new efficiencies or more effective allocation of investment to deliver the same outcome for less. That’s what we have been testing with housing portfolios recently and are now starting to see the results coming through. In a typical portfolio this can mean hundreds of thousands in new income, as well as customer savings and efficiency gains. Read more at in the Adecoe News 5.