Building resilience and dealing with volatility in social housing

Resilience in the wake of the Brexit vote was, unsurprisingly, a key topic of conversation at the CIH conference in Manchester this year, and particularly so at our roundtable dinner for CEOs.

And while in so many spheres of political, economic and everyday life the last week has been hectic and frenetic, the tone of the discussion was assured and confident when it came to the role and purpose of housing associations in the future.

That is not to say that the last week has been easy. Many associations will have had some significant calls for cash to cover positions on gilt-linked investments and so it has not been a week to take risks. Nor have the full repercussions of Brexit, or the change of Conservative party leadership, fully played out. However, in contrast to last year’s discussion, when housing associations were the focus of policy upheaval and the Summer Budget was a couple of weeks away with bad news expected, this year’s tone was purposeful rather than anxious.

Over the past year, many associations have taken positive steps to improve their capacity and resilience through advancing their process of much-needed sector consolidation and the discussion turned to many other opportunities:

  1. The opportunity to reaffirm identity and purpose, and to prove the value of this purpose using numbers and words to make quality and impact tangible for a wider group of stakeholders.
  2. The ability to set and deliver a strategy for the longer-term: building and providing good quality homes in a sustainable way year-after-year and creating a compelling narrative for government around the sector’s role.
  3. A commercial business model but one that is not beholden to the annual cycles of city reporting in the way that quoted private developers must be; a business model which can learn from excellence wherever it finds it, and, perhaps increasingly a collaborative model within the sector.
  4. Standing up for the values upon which the sector was founded and leading by example in communities at a time when social cohesion may be increasingly stressed and tested.
  5. Harnessing the passion of the next generation of leaders in the sector and drawing new talent in to the sector at what looks like a time of less stability socially, economically and politically.

While there are no doubt uncertainties ahead, whatever the new normal is, my sense is that housing associations are, if anything, clearer than ever about their role, purpose and the value that they add.


Matthew Williams | Social housing consulting
Email  | +44 (0)7730 733790

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