10th November 2015
Shaping the future of their organisation, board members and the leadership team at Eden Housing Association (EHA) concentrated their thoughts at their annual strategic away day. With the unexpected changes to social housing announced by the Government in the Summer budget, the EHA strategic planning day was brought forward and provided an ideal opportunity for the four most recent board members to make a valuable contribution to Eden Housing Association’s future direction.
Ian Tupling became a board member when Lowther Housing Association transferred its stock to Eden Housing Association. He was their long standing Vice Chair and has close involvement with rural housing issues. The other more recent additions to the board in 2015 include Fra Cooke who has over 20 years’ experience in organisational change and strategic management in commercial and not for profit organisations and Simon Hunt, a chartered accountant for over fifteen years, with extensive experience in change management and planning and currently working in the NHS. The fourth addition to the board is Hugh Harrison, Chair of the Associations tenant and resident assembly and with close to 50 years experience as a former Parish and District Councillor.
The Government’s budget announcement that housing associations will be forced to reduce rents over the next 4 years came as a major surprise to social housing providers across the UK, given a previous guarantee on rent increases for 10 years had been only just implemented this year. The announcement will lead to Housing Associations (HA’s) being required to reduce social housing rents by 1 per cent each year for the next four years from April 2016.
The changes meant that existing financial planning budgets were obsolete, with many housing associations faced with the need to find large savings across their organisations and threatening their planned investment into core services and community benefit activities as well as the provision of much needed new affordable rented homes.
Eden Housing Association had just completed their most recent three year corporate plan when the announcements were made. Since then, the board and leadership team have been working to minimise the effect of future rent budget cuts on services to tenants and staff. The strategic away day was an opportunity to review and refine the association’s goals and steer the organisation’s direction, building upon its existing strengths.
John Clasper, Managing Director at Eden Housing Association said “the proposed reduction in rental income means we need to make savings across our business. Our newest board members bring with them decades of experience in strategic planning and organisation change as well as a commercial perspective, so their contributions at this time are immensely valuable. Our mission has not changed; but we will have to think and respond differently to continue to be an efficient and highly effective landlord, enabling us to go beyond that expected landlord role and get involved in projects that help people and our rural communities. We will need to be even more effective and invest in new partnerships”.
“Spending the day together enabled a lot of different thoughts to be expressed and to reaffirm our commitment to the local neighbourhoods. The Board wish us to be bolder in our ambition. To continue developing homes, continue growing our Independent Living Service and pursuing partnerships – including volunteering opportunities, so we can play our part in addressing the health and wellbeing needs of our communities. It is now the job of our leadership team to translate that into successful work plans.”
Eden Housing Association is not alone in facing challenges. The government’s rent reduction policy has potentially serious consequences for many housing associations and all are expected to have to address cash flows and reconfiguration of business plans. It also raises questions about the ability and appetite of social landlords to build new homes.
Eden Housing Association will continue to seek development opportunities on smaller sites in keeping with the local and rural neighbourhoods it serves.