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Opinion: Moving into the market makes sense for housing providers

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Opinion: Moving into the market makes sense for housing providers

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Published by Jon Land for 24dash.com in Housing

Opinion: Moving into the market makes sense for housing providers Opinion: Moving into the market makes sense for housing providers

Paul Whittingham, Head of Housing at Futures Homescape, argues housing providers have a duty to rethink their role to satisfy an ever-increasing need for homes. Here he dispels some 'myths' surrounding this contentious issue.

Myth one: selling and renting homes in the market sector helps the wrong people

Our work may not have changed – but the size and makeup of the pool of people who need homes most certainly has.

Whether it is a family struggling to afford a home, a young homeless person, an elderly person who requires support beyond just housing or a single professional who can’t get a mortgage – there are many people who housing providers come into contact with on a daily basis who have very different reasons for needing a home.

The issue of providing housing came into sharp focus in the aftermath of the Second World War. But the debate was not framed around who was needier; it was around how homes could be built for everyone.

We need to get away from the perception housing associations merely provide homes for one demographic. Instead we need to remember our origins and that our role is to cater for anyone with a housing need.

As we once again face the reality that the demand for all kinds of housing is set to increase, we have a duty to find ways of providing it. If we do it right we can make our organisations more diverse and resilient.

Myth two: offering market rent properties takes attention away from the central work of a housing provider

The opposite is true. In reality our core role is, and always has been, providing good-quality, well-maintained housing and rents that people can afford. The logic behind moving into the market should be that it enriches and enhances this.

It is no secret that funding new affordable homes is set to become even more challenging. In an unpredictable political landscape, housing providers must reduce their reliance on Government funding and become self-sufficient.

In the UK, it is predicted the cost of a home is set to rocket by 35 per cent by 2020. If this happens, the demand for all kinds of accommodation will increase. Our role should be to provide homes for those people who need them. It really is that simple.

In a landscape like this we must think outside of the box. Not only because it is the right thing to do, but because done in the right way it can significantly enrich our work.

Myth three: we can’t compete in the market, others already do it better and cheaper

Housing providers can, and should, compete in the market. Our size and infrastructure, our reputation for managing tenancies and our high service levels put us in an ideal place to compete. The only obstacle to overcome is that by and large the public still associate housing providers with managing one kind of property. And the only way to tackle this is to prove we do not.

At Futures, our reputation locally has also allowed us to work in the market in ways which go beyond just offering properties for market rent. We now manage more than 100 homes on behalf of private property owners via our private sector leasing scheme.

Private property owners may earn more from offering their property directly or through an agency, but in the long run there will periods where a landlord can’t find a tenant, they have to maintain the home and they have to manage the tenancy. So the percentage of rental income we take to manage a home is actually more than recouped by the guarantee of rental income over that period.

Moving into the market does not mean a dereliction of the fundamental work of a housing provider, it merely means redefining our role in a time of profound housing need to find ways to provide homes for the people who need them.

Where we can, we should.

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