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NHF Board Members’ Conference - The housing association ‘offer’

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NHF Board Members’ Conference - The housing association ‘offer’

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Published by Jon Land for 24dash.com in Housing

NHF Board Members' Conference - The housing association 'offer' NHF Board Members' Conference - The housing association 'offer'

Ahead of the upcoming National Housing Federation Board Members' conference Mike Pritty, Chair of Trident Social Investment Group, implores housing associations to think about their future 'offer' by re-discovering their core values.

This weekend Board members of housing associations across the country assemble in the second city to debate how we’ll meet the new challenges of social housing governance.

While the focus of this year's conference will be looking to the future, I believe that we need to draw upon the lessons of the past to sift our most important priorities and commitments from secondary and tertiary concerns.

This means, essentially, deciding what makes housing associations historically distinctive, tracking our unique contribution to improving the lives and life chances of our tenants over many years, and deciding how we might aid a more sustainable economy and civic society of the future. In short, what is the housing association ‘offer’ that will be attractive to a range of stakeholders, including central and local government, taxpayers, partners the neighbourhoods where we work and often disadvantaged people we serve.

A benefit of being Chair of a housing association with fifty years of history is being clear about the values on which future strategy should be based and around which our ‘offer’ can be assembled. Founded in 1962, Trident has developed over time under a variety of funding and regulatory regimes into one of the Midlands’ major social landlords and providers of care and support, a consistency of approach has been evident which we see stretching into the future, albeit tempered by emerging funding, regulatory and economic factors.

In my view, the golden thread running through the five decades of Trident’s history has been a commitment to people. A long-term concern for people is our core value. I believe that the work of Trident, and that of most housing associations, in delivering activities that support this core value can be demonstrated.

In the case of Trident, a recently published history and a systematic, embedded research programme with our partner the Human City Institute, provide a deep and wide evidence base of long-term work to help tenants and communities through hard times and to foster aspirations for the future.

Research by the National Housing Federation through its neighbourhood audit provides the sector-wide evidence base for putting people first. More than £750 million annually is invested in initiatives to improve employability, social and economic vitality, health and wellbeing, community infrastructure and opportunities for the most disadvantaged in our society.

Trident too has also been about providing much more than housing since 1962. Today we call this ‘social investment’. So it is fitting in our 50th Anniversary year that we have created a group of charities and social enterprises to go alongside Trident HA to create the Trident Social Investment Group.

Historically, we have provided a range of community services such as money advice, affordable credit and warmth, furnished tenancies, employment and training, and tenancy support. What’s different from our past approach though, is that ‘social investment’ has become our core and guiding value rather than an ‘add-on’ as in the past.

To ensure that Trident’s new approach is successfully embedded we have been evaluating all of our policies, practices and activities through a comprehensive social audit that began in 2011, with results to be published in 2013.

What it has indicated so far is that a social investment strategy for the next five was required to guide organisational development, the creation of subsidiaries, evolution of policies and involvement of staff, tenants and stakeholders in the new approach. This strategy will be published in March to chart our full evolution over the next five years into a comprehensive ‘social investment’ group.

At a time when social housing is under increasing scrutiny to prove its worth as a beneficial yet cost-effective force in disadvantaged communities, I believe that envisioning and activating such strategies is what sets housing associations apart from the private sector, confirms our historical social purpose and clarifies our future direction.

So our future ‘offer’ seeks to embed the best of our past - as a force for human good - in a modern setting. We need to proclaim this ‘offer’ at this weekend’s conference with renewed confidence and unashamed vigour, and then across the country. After all, governments, housing policies and regulatory frameworks come and go. But if housing associations have proved anything over a century and more, it’s that we’re committed to tenants and communities for the long haul.

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