As board members, your leadership will help our sector – and our country – thrive

Diana Warwick, 17 June 2020

It’s always been a privilege to represent the housing association sector, but I don’t think I’ve ever felt prouder than over the last few months, seeing how, as a sector, we have stepped up during the coronavirus crisis. The crisis has shown the very best of our sector – your commitment to providing more than ‘just a home’, to delivering vital care and support, offering guidance and advice for vulnerable residents, helping to bring rough sleepers in off the streets, and adapting your services to new and uncertain times. I’ve spoken about your work multiple times in the House of Lords, and will continue to do so as our sector plays a vital role in recovering from the crisis.

There’s no doubt we have been challenged in ways we never could have predicted. Your businesses have had to flex and change, as you adjust to new ways of working, redeploy staff, focus resources in different places, and respond rapidly to new challenges. At the heart of your response, though, has always been your commitment to helping the residents and communities you serve.

As board members, you’ll have been feeling the heat in the last few months. Your leadership and guidance has been crucial to navigating the crisis, and to helping the sector adapt to this ‘new normal’. And you are key to shaping our sector’s role in recovering from this crisis, for your own businesses and in enabling the country as a whole to emerge stronger and more resilient.

The problems we faced before the crisis have not gone away. There’s still an acute shortage of social housing, rising homelessness, an uncertain future for support services, and inequalities between communities.

In particular, the coronavirus crisis – and events in recent weeks – have highlighted the ongoing injustice and inequality in our country. A disproportionate number of BAME people have died from coronavirus, and many more are struggling with structural inequalities within our society. In social housing, we’ve always been committed to tackling injustice and inequality. But this is an important time to reflect and respond, and look at what more we can do as a sector to tackle racism and discrimination.

We can’t claim to hold all the answers, but we do have an important role to play in building a fairer, more prosperous and sustainable economy and society.

That’s why the NHF has launched Homes at the Heart, a new campaign to put social housing at the heart of social and economic recovery. 

  • Investing in good-quality social housing makes sense for the economy and society. It creates new jobs and can kick-start economic recovery. It also provides a lifeline for many of the key workers we’ve been celebrating in recent months – people who deliver essential, often life-saving, services we’ve come to value more than ever. Our specialist members also provide much-needed homes for, and support and campaign on behalf of, specific groups, including the BAME community.
  • This could be a turning point for rough sleeping in our country. Housing associations urgently helped find accommodation to bring people off the streets during the crisis, and we don’t want to miss the opportunity to turn this into long-term change. Our commitment is to ensure there’s no return to rough sleeping once the immediate crisis is over.
  • Our care and support services have proven vital. I’ve heard of housing associations working with local councils to provide beds for patients discharged from hospital, relieving pressure on the NHS. Housing associations with supported housing continuing to work around the clock to care for vulnerable residents – despite the immense pressures they face.
  • We can help create a more sustainable future. We’re already looking at ways to deliver cleaner, greener homes and communities – investing in green projects and infrastructure can create new jobs and stimulate the economy.
  • We build strong, thriving communities. Our work goes beyond bricks and mortar, investing in people, places and local partnerships to create new opportunities, and support thriving, diverse and successful communities around the country.

As board members, you have a key role to play in delivering our campaign. Through your leadership and governance, you can help shape a future in which your organisation and our sector can deliver on these ambitions. And using your influence and networks, you can make sure we’re telling our story to the people that need to hear it – so our sector’s contribution and potential is fully understood. I’m looking forward to what we can achieve together.