The Social Housing Sector ' Better Together?

Published date01 December 2021
Law FirmPenningtons Manches Cooper
AuthorMs Gemma A. Bell

The past 18 months have seen the world change dramatically. For the UK's social housing sector, it has presented various challenges and pushed organisations to operate in unanticipated ways.

On the whole, the sector has risen to the challenge and organisations have shared their learning with each other in a more open and transparent way with a shared purpose. The common objective of providing safe and affordable housing for society's most vulnerable and fixing the housing crisis hasn't undergone a step change, but the coronavirus crisis has crystallised the importance of working together and the shared responsibility to protect tenants and maintain services.

The economic impact of the pandemic looks set to be long lasting, changing the way social housing providers can and should operate. As social and economic anchors, housing associations have a significant opportunity to consider how they can work together, and with local and national government and other sectors, such as the health and social care sectors, to help communities and the economy recover.

We have already seen a move towards greater collaboration in the sector over the last five years, in the wake of rent cuts and a greater focus on achieving value for money. We anticipate that this will only increase in the next five years and beyond.

NHF Code 2020

The publication of the new NHF Code 2020, which remains the most widely adopted code of governance in the sector, coincided with the shift towards greater collaboration. The code introduced a new requirement for social housing providers to consider, as part of their overall corporate strategy, whether and how active cooperation, collaboration, joint working or partnership could enable them to deliver their social purpose and strategies more effectively and economically.

Conversely, the code includes a specific requirement to ensure that any joint ventures or partnership vehicles support the organisation's mission and objectives. The arrangements in place must be reviewed annually and formally documented to cover 'accountability, performance, compliance, risk management and governance'. The new code will have the effect of crystallising what is currently best practice within the sector. Several housing associations already operate in this manner and are live to the issues associated with partnership working with external counterparties.

The benefits of collaboration

Collaboration can have various wide-reaching benefits, both direct and indirect...

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