Those of you across the sector will more than likely know that Housing 2023 took place in Manchester last week. As a team, we split ourselves across the three days of the annual conference to catch up on hot topics from across the industry and take the opportunity to meet with existing and new contacts.
In our latest blog, Stuart and Jade share their key takeaways from the event.
By Stuart MacDonald, Managing Director
Communication, communication, communication.
This was the buzzword at almost every session I attended at Manchester and in many conversations as well. While this is a topic close to my heart (and hence one I bang on about a bit!), it is not always the case for others. So, it was a refreshing and encouraging change to hear speaker after speaker identify clearer and more accessible communication as a key factor in addressing many of the challenges housing providers currently face.
Whether it was damp and mould, net zero-carbon, or fire safety, better communication offers significant scope for improved outcomes. For Hexagon resident and Together With Tenants Advisory Panel chair, Valerie Oldfield, this was both in resident comms and internal comms between departments. Achieving this means a ‘real culture shift’ in many organisations, but it is well worth the effort. The result – if done well – is increased resident trust. Right now, with depressed customer satisfaction scores, this is low-hanging fruit for many housing providers.
Did someone say General Election?
The consensus in Manchester was that a General Election will be held in Autumn 2024. That gives this year’s party conferences in September an added edge as lobbying gathers pace over the contents of manifestos. Consequently it will be fascinating to see how housing providers decide to approach the next 12-18 months.
The stakes are higher than usual, due to the continued pressure on multiple fronts for investment in existing homes. Also, the 7% rent cap in England covers the current financial year, but with inflation still at more than 8% real income continues to be cut. The conference heard from Labour’s Shadow Housing Secretary, Lisa Nandy, of hopes for a ‘substantial programme of social and affordable housebuilding’. Yet how will this be funded?
It was clear from public and private comments in Manchester that housing providers have firmly shifted focus to existing homes. They have heard the message loud and clear that too many residents are unhappy with the service they receive. To fund this landlords are reining in development plans – as shown in Inside Housing’s Top 50 Biggest Builders survey.
Will the housing sector use some of the data it now has to get on the front foot and make it clear to politicians that there is only so much they can do without significantly increased government grant funding? Or will landlords take the view that rocking the boat could mean an even tighter rent settlement for next year.
Jade Ziola-Sammons, Account Manager
Squashing the stigma
This topic is something that my colleague, Sarah Thomas, has already commented on before in her blog here, but the seminar entitled Stop Social Housing Stigma highlighted the urgent need to challenge the stigma surrounding social housing.
Research revealed that negative perceptions emerged in the 1970s, perpetuated by labelling residents and intensified by media portrayal, and the consequences include job rejections, postcode prejudice, and biased treatment in policing, healthcare, and education. To combat this, resident-led campaigns like the Stop Social Housing Stigma Group and its initiatives such as the Contractor Pledge have emerged.
The need for appropriate language, respect, and amplification of tenant voices were emphasised in this session, along with the importance of making tenant engagement a key part of cultural change. By countering stereotypes and valuing diverse perspectives, the housing sector can reshape public opinion, serve communities better, and foster a positive image.
So, for those of you that did attend, what were your key take aways from the event? We’d love to chat to you more about your priorities for the next year, and beyond, and how communications can be an asset to any campaign. Drop us an email at email@example.com.