Putting social housing on the Secretary of State’s New Year agenda

28 January 2021

This week we held a roundtable with the Secretary of State for MHCLG, Robert Jenrick, the new chair of Homes England, and key officials, to discuss our sector's development ambitions and desire to work in partnership with the government to deliver for our communities.

This meeting was at the request of Robert Jenrick and is a reflection of the constructive relationship the sector has built with this administration, which we have seen strengthen through the course of the pandemic. Robert Jenrick himself commented that over the last year he's really come to appreciate the role of housing associations and the value of investing in affordable housing. 

It was clear through the course of the meeting that Robert Jenrick values working in partnership with the housing association sector and is keen to explore ways we can do more together. 

The roundtable was an opportunity for our members to reiterate how they've welcomed the new Affordable Homes Programme, but also be honest about the risks they see in delivering the programme, particularly in such a fragile housing market. Robert Jenrick responded positively for calls to work closely with us as the programme is rolled out, and to ensure we can continue to build homes even in a significant economic and market downturn. 

The meeting also covered the wider development constraints housing associations face, most notably the significant investments needed to remediate buildings to make them safe and begin the substantial retrofit programme needed to reduce carbon emissions.

Members at the roundtable were clear that building safety work was non-negotiable and would always have to take precedence, but that starting work on decarbonising our homes was also pressing, and taken together for some housing associations this will mean cutting back on development unless more support is forthcoming. 

We urged Robert Jenrick to consider these issues in the round, and work with other ministers and departments to ensure we can meet all of the different priorities and challenges facing us at the moment, which he committed to doing.

The roundtable was a really valuable opportunity for Robert Jenrick to get to know our sector better, to understand our ambitions, but also to be more aware of the challenges we face over the coming years. 

He is keen to follow up and keep an open dialogue with the NHF, particularly as we see how housing market conditions change over the next few months. We will be following up the specific points in the meeting with officials and will ensure that feedback from our members will inform those conversations.