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Opinion: The 3% challenge

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Published by Jon Land for 24dash.com in Housing

Opinion: The 3% challenge Opinion: The 3% challenge

By Greg Campbell, Director, Campbell Tickell

Housing providers have long worked in a complex environment. 25 years’ worth of legislation and practice changes have arguably brought more change than any other area of public policy.

But the last few years have seen a more challenging environment than ever, with welfare reform, a low grant regime, regulatory changes, the advent of commercial competition, focus on value for money and much more. Link this to the changes in the housing market, with demand up, supply down and affordability a major obstacle, and many organisations have been finding it hard to know which way to turn.

The National Housing Federation’s HotHouse campaign and their publication ‘An ambition to deliver - housing associations unbounded’ have signalled what could be a turning point in the sector’s approach. With the general election just a year away, discussion has been growing on how housing providers can start to set their own agenda to meet local needs, rather than always have to dance to tunes played by others.

Campbell Tickell has launched ‘The 3% Challenge’ - our way of helping housing providers focus practically on how they can set that agenda and make a real and conscious difference to communities. The campaign title was coined in response to a proposal from Grahame Hindes, chief executive of Octavia Housing. He has argued that housing providers should set themselves the target of increasing their housing supply by 3% a year – which would represent a significant increase in the sector’s output. We know that many landlords will be able to meet or exceed this target.

At the same time, we know that not all social landlords will practically be able to meet the target. Some won’t have sufficient financial capacity in the short to medium-term or may face a lack of housing demand in their areas. Indeed, for some associations, a significant gearing increase from a major expansion of development could breach their funding covenants. Equally, others will feel that they should balance an increase in output with an increase in employment and training work with residents or wider community support.

So we’re not suggesting a ‘one size for all’ approach. But we do believe this is a time to be creative and, where providers are not able to meet a 3% annual increase in supply, we believe they should identify similarly challenging alternatives to address the needs of the communities in which they operate. This is about setting the agenda, saying ‘we can make a difference. It is a stretch, but the responsibility is ours, using the tools in our own hands’.

We asked a number of housing association chief executives for their thoughts on the 3% Challenge and how their organisations could respond. We have had a great response. Organisations that have so far committed to work to meet or exceed the target are:
• Family Mosaic
• Catalyst Housing
• CHP
• Curo Group
• Derwent Living
• Ducane Housing
• Halton Housing Trust
• L&Q
• Longhurst Group
• Notting Hill Housing
• Octavia Housing
• Orwell Housing
• Saxon Weald
• Sovereign Housing
• Thames Valley Housing
• Yarlington Housing Group

Other organisations not in a position to sign up to the 3% target, but committing to stretch themselves in different ways to meet communities’ needs are:
• Affinity Sutton
• AmicusHorizon
• Circle Group
• PlaceShapers
• Progress Housing Group
• Riverside Group

Since we launched it a few days ago, Knightstone Housing and Orbit Housing Group have also signed up to the 3%.

Tell us what you think: join the debate at www.campbelltickell.com/3percent or tweet #3percentchallenge.

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