An eye on RHPi | Scanning the horizon: The eight point plan
As we all know, during the past 18 months the world of social housing has changed significantly with a series of government policy announcements and turns of events that have left our sector looking very different from the past. A lot of people ask me how I see the future looking and what I think the important factors are that’ll enable organisations in the sector to not only survive but more importantly thrive. To give you a taste of my answer, here are eight key things we’ll be focusing on at RHP:
1.Building more homes. Whilst many things in our world have changed – the one constant is that we need more affordable housing, more quickly. It is essential for the future of our sector that housing associations are part of the solution not the problem – so we need to think and act differently. This is absolutely our moment – we mustn’t miss it!
2.New leadership. It’s a time for big bold leadership that rethinks everything we do and challenges traditional ways of working. There are many wonderful things about social housing to feel proud about – but equally there are many things that just don’t work or are no longer relevant. In particular, like some others in the sector, I believe that we need to break the dependency culture that often characterises social housing - it’s not helping the image of our sector, our customers or how we run our businesses.
3.New priorities. Housing associations need to focus more than ever upon what matters most to their customers and to their stakeholders – and in many cases this is simply providing an affordable home. Difficult choices and decisions need to be made by boards about stopping activities and services that are not core business or which simply don’t add sufficient value.
4.Reducing costs. We need to face up to the fact that operating costs in our sector are just too high. Driving down costs needs to become central to our business strategies. Currently it costs housing associations an average of about £3,500 to manage and maintain a single home – this is too much and is unsustainable. It also makes us highly vulnerable to external disruption. Reducing operating costs across our sector would free up massive capacity for investment in building homes.
5.Digital. We need to fully embrace the digital age because this is how our customers will want to access our services in the future - and because on-line service delivery offers huge efficiency advantages. One of the biggest priorities for housing associations going forward is to access modern technology and use this to fundamentally change how they deliver their services. At RHP, we’re seeking to revolutionise the landlord service by delivering all transactional services on line – with the aim of providing a better customer experience at much lower cost than traditional approaches. In April we launched the first fully digital housing service in the UK – and it’s going brilliantly with great feedback from customers.
6.Innovation. For the very best businesses, innovation is no longer a nice to have but a business imperative giving them the edge over their competitors. Housing associations need to follow suit and develop cultures which encourage new ways of thinking, reward risk takers and don’t punish people for giving it a go. At RHP we’re putting innovation at the heart of our culture, and are proud to have topped Inside Housing’s Innovation Index for 2 years running. And it’s why we’re hosting HouseMark’s accelerator programme, which is bringing start-ups into the sector.
7.New blood. We need to attract talented new people into our sector with technology enabled skills, a customer service ethos and new ways of thinking. This requires making our organisations highly attractive places to work with inspirational cultures – which means a new more open and engaging style of leadership. At RHP we’re proud to be ranked as the best workplace in the UK topping a list of commercial companies.
8.Commercialisation. There are exciting opportunities to commercialise the sector without losing our social purpose. In particular, we need to be much more willing to join forces with others to share technology and services.
At RHP we see the new operating environment as an exciting time to completely rethink our business model and approach – and in doing so to challenge assumptions and ways of working that have been in place across the sector for many years. We see these eight factors as being integral to us achieving this - I for one can’t wait to see what the future holds.