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As the UK looks towards recovery, questions remain about how the sector can pay for the strategic changes we still need to complete.

COVID-19, and the associated lockdown, asked fundamental questions of what we need from our housing, accelerating existing trends. Already, when we look to the years ahead and our development plans, it’s with an eye on the changes in customer priorities and how we can best anticipate these demands. It’s clear we need to listen more closely than ever to customers to understand their needs.

One key difference between social housing providers and other property businesses, such as developers, is that we make decisions with long-term consequences.

While we have proved nimble in face of challenges, we cannot always pivot quickly away from our existing business models as people’s homes and well-being depend on us. Instead, housing associations need to work with government and other decision-makers to ensure the UK housing sector can help underpin a rapid national recovery and build back better.

Guiding this process should be an honest conversation with our customers about our future plans and the potentially difficult trade-offs the sector must make during the next few years.

High-quality, genuinely affordable housing has an important role for our customers, for society, for the economy, for health and well-being and for the environment, and a role that extends far beyond the life of any government. Therefore, only by building consensus, nationally and locally, about what comes next, can a route towards a better future be secured.

Paul Gray, chief financial officer, One Housing

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