What will 2022 look like for social housing?

Kate Henderson, 04 January 2022

2021 proved to be another big year for social housing. There was a Bill introduced on the new building safety regulatory regime, proposed changes to the planning process, and the Social Housing White Paper continued to move forward. Then of course we gained a new Secretary of State in Michael Gove and MHCLG was given new focus and responsibilities, becoming the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC). We were one of the first organisations to meet Michael Gove to hear about these changes directly, and we’ve since built relationships with new staff across DLUHC. 

Housing was firmly on the government’s radar, and we made the most of the opportunities this presented to advocate and champion housing associations across the year. Working alongside our members, we were successful in securing additional funding for building safety, decarbonisation, supported housing and building new homes.

Some of my personal 2021 highlights included the progress of our decarbonisation work developed in partnership with our members, which has not only produced a new decarbonisation guide for housing associations, it has also positioned us as a credible and authoritative voice on one of the nation’s most critical issues. It was also brilliant to end the year with the publication of our equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) report, which uses our members’ data to compile the first-ever national picture of EDI in England’s housing association workforce.  

We ended the year with the brilliant news that member satisfaction with the NHF has increased by 5% over the last year. Having expanded our member networks, groups and events, it felt like we were more connected with our members than ever in 2021, so it was great to see this brilliant result and one we’re committed to building upon.

Overall, the year was defined by our collective impact – working closely with our members to create positive change that will benefit people across the country.

Looking ahead, 2022 is already shaping up to be just as busy as 2021. A lot can happen in a year, but some of the key things to expect are:

  • A new Levelling Up White Paper, which presents an opportunity for us to make the case that housing should sit at the heart of the levelling up agenda. We will consult members on the White Paper when it’s been published, and look forward to your feedback and comments.
  • Further progress on the Social Housing White Paper, and a continued focus on quality and customer service. The New Year starts with the Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Committee inquiry, and the consultation on tenant satisfaction, but it won’t stop there. Resident engagement will rightly remain a central topic in 2022, and we’ll continue to encourage our members to sign up to the Together with Tenants initiative to signal our commitment to residents.  
  • A big year for building safety, as reforms will become law and the new regulator will take oversight. There is no doubt that building safety will stay top of the agenda, and I know that housing associations are working incredibly hard to prepare for major changes.
  • Resurfacing planning reforms, but it’s difficult to predict what will happen. We know that the government is taking the time to reconsider previous proposals and put forward revised reforms. Our task is to ensure that any new proposals for the planning system will maximise the delivery of new affordable homes.
  • And no doubt sustainability will continue to be a national, and international, priority. 2021 felt like the year of clarity, with the government sharing its ambitions for decarbonising the nation’s homes. Now is the time to put that into action, and continue our journey to net zero.

Our mission at the NHF is to understand and anticipate the critical issues affecting the social housing sector. That involves responding to policy landscape such as the five points above, but it also involves being proactive and shaping the landscape ourselves.

That has been the central aim of our strategic review, which we started last year and has focused on how the external environment for social housing may change over the next ten years – and how best to prepare.

We’ve been speaking to our members, stakeholders and residents to shape this review, and plan to share our findings soon. These findings will inform our new business strategy ready for April 2022, and shape our work for years to come.

This will enable us, and our sector, to get out ahead on the front foot, making sure we can stay relevant and resilient whatever the future holds. Not just in 2022, but in years to come.