Pursuing new initiatives

Neil Hadden from Genesis, takes a look pursuing new initiatives.

Over the last few days I have spent some of my time being involved in two initiatives that will be familiar to long-term HPUK members.  They are the Social Housing Analysis/Index produced by IPD and the work being done to take forward the Group or Sector Borrowing Vehicle concept.  More about each in due course but my involvement got me thinking about how good (or bad) the sector is in pursuing initiatives that could benefit many rather than the handful of original participants.

I very much welcome the work done to create the sector scorecard.  We might all have quibbles about some of the indicators and their definition but the fact remains that what is proposed is not only a considerable advance on the HCA’s Operating Cost Index but it shows that the sector is taking seriously the government’s challenge to us to demonstrate our efficiency.  No doubt the regulator will adopt and adapt the scorecard to its own ends and we will see journalists scrabbling to produce the first league table based on its outputs but rather this than have something imposed on us.

Similarly, I am pleased to see the work some of us have done with Policy Exchange over the last couple of years come to fruition with the abolition on 6th April of the ‘consents regime’ and reference in the White Paper to the Government doing deals with associations over rents in return for more new housing delivery.

These are two great examples but are there many more?  This brings me back to the IPD index.  Those of us involved in the original setting up of the index had great hopes for it.  The analysis enables us to demonstrate the economic performance of each of our property assets; we can identify the best and worst performing assets and rank them all by performance.  We can also demonstrate the social dividend of our work, ie. the impact of letting properties at sub-market rents.  Those of us interested in strategic asset management rather than focusing only on repairs and maintenance programmes can utilise the index to determine asset investment needs, identify the impact of switching tenures or indeed those properties which it would be most beneficial to sell.  At a time when the regulator’s definition of value for money included the economic performance of our assets we felt the index would chime with the needs of the sector.  However, the reality is that at the time of writing only four associations are participating and the index could be on its last legs.  I hope we do not come to regret this and have to invent something similar in the future – not because we want to satisfy the regulator but because we want to understand our operations better.

I hope the idea of a Group Borrowing Vehicle for the sector does not go the same way as the IPD index.  We are at a very exciting stage looking at the practicalities of setting up the vehicle and the benefits it can bring.  We will be looking to set up an event in May to explain where we have got to, what the next steps are and to encourage other associations to participate.  The more that are engaged with the vehicle the more set-up costs are spread and greater benefits can be realised.

I understand that it is often difficult to raise our heads above day-to-day operational needs and there are many demands on our time and resources.  However, if we are concerned about the health and strength of the sector and its future resilience can we afford to not give such initiatives our support?