Investing in projects which make our places great is simply the right thing to do

Colin Dennis, 31 January 2020

In social housing, the right decision is rarely the one that brings in the most money. In fact, it should always be the one that will have the biggest impact on people’s lives.

Following our recent transition from WM Housing to Citizen, we made an early decision about our first major projects – two large-scale regeneration schemes in inner city Coventry which will cost us £35m.

These projects pose a real challenge for us and neither will make us a penny in extra rent. In fact, we’ll lose rental income because one of the projects will see us demolish a tower block and replace it with a smaller number of new homes.

When proposals like this, which pose very real financial concerns, are put before a board it is the right and proper thing to scrutinise them. But in reality scrutinising proposals like this doesn’t just mean understanding their financial viability, it means understanding their likely impact. That’s why as a board we visited the communities in question to see first hand the issues the proposals were put forward to address.

Once the detail had been agreed the final decision was not a difficult one for us. This is exactly the sort of project we, as a board, should be supporting our executives to do.

We know that these projects will see improvements to hundreds of homes for people in our communities and tackle the priority issues for our tenants – which is the quality of their home and the safety and security of their neighbourhood.

We believe passionately in our new purpose – to provide homes that are a foundation for life and to us our most important role is as an anchor institution in our communities. We want to continue to have a real impact on the lives of the people who live in our communities because that’s how and where we believe we can add very real value.

It’s important that we help more people and that’s why we will continue to have an ambitious development programme so that we can help new people get access to a good quality home. But we already have 30,000 homes and they deserve a good home too. That’s why we will always support projects which enhance our places, even if this means making decisions which are financially difficult.

We have been proud to be part of the National Housing Federation’s Great Places Commission and when our Chief Executive Kevin Rodgers, a member of the commission, attended visits across the North and the Midlands there were fantastic examples of successful regeneration projects with proud people and vibrant communities.

That is what we are trying to achieve with our regeneration ambitions at Citizen and working with the community and our partners we are confident and excited for our future.

As boards we need to be prepared to back our organisations to do the work which adds real value in our communities because that is the work that makes a real difference to people’s lives.

Are you coming to the Regeneration and Development conference? Hear more great stories like this at the event next month.

Who to speak to

Fleur Priest-Stephens, Policy Leader