Sector trade bodies launch Housing Futures to brainstorm ‘innovation’ but is it just talking shop in a crisis?

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HOUSING association trade bodies from across the UK are collaborating on a sector-wide innovation programme that will supposedly devise solutions to some of biggest challenges in housing.

The National Housing Federation (NHF) is working with its counterparts, the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations (SFHA), Community Housing Cymru (CHC), and the Northern Ireland Federation of Housing Associations (NIFHA), to deliver the Housing Futures programme.

It is said to be the biggest collaborative exercise the sector has ever undertaken, and is expected to involved hundreds of housing associations from every nation and region of the UK. The problems the venture could seek to address range from homelessness the affordability of housing, to how the sector can respond to the global climate emergency.

Evidently it will involve a lot of ‘talking shop’. Following the launch of Housing Futures, what comes next is a series of workshops for housing association staff. According to the NHF, these workshops will be “equipping them with new skills that will enable them to gain a deeper understanding of these problems”.

The NHF added: “This understanding can then be used to develop ideas for new products, services or approaches that will transform people’s lives. Staff will also be able to take these skills back to their organisations, helping to embed new ways of thinking and allowing the sector to deliver on its social purpose, no matter what comes next.”

James Green, the NHF’s Futures Programme director, said: “Housing associations have a strong track record of innovating to make life better for their tenants, their communities and the country. By embedding a greater culture of innovation and collaboration in the sector, Housing Futures will empower housing associations to step up and take on the challenges of tomorrow.

“We know our members are bursting with great ideas which have huge potential. With housing associations from across the UK working together, Housing Futures will help to shape the future of social housing across the country.”

Lorna Wilson, the SFHA’s innovation and future thinking lead, added: “This work has never been more necessary. Across the UK, we are facing the perfect storm of a growing and ageing population, more people living alone, people struggling with the costs of private rent and homeownership, and changing aspirations about how and where we live.

“And this is set alongside our climate emergency, growing poverty and inequality, homelessness and a continually evolving political environment.

“So, if our sector is going to continue to build much needed new social affordable housing and ensure existing stock is fit-for-purpose, the question is not whether we ‘think differently’, but how? And Housing Futures will enable housing associations across the UK to meet this challenge.”

Housing Futures is the next phase of the NHF’s Creating Our Future programme. This eighteen-month project was launched in 2017, and saw 450 people from over 250 housing associations come together from across England to tackle major issues, from the challenges of an ageing population to preventing homelessness.

According to the NHF, several of the proposed solutions are now being implemented by groups of housing associations, while hundreds of participating association staff have returned to their organisations with new “innovation skills”.

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