MIPIMWorld: You are an Executive Board Member at Thames Valley Housing and Fizzy Entreprises and a member of the Group Investment Committee. You are also a non-executive director at McCarthy & Stone and are a commissioner on the Fairness commission for London. What are the biggest challenges affecting the UK housing associations at the moment and how best can the British governments address them?
Geeta: Housing Associations have seen some major changes over the last few years both in terms of the challenges in building truly affordable homes and for our customers in the income they have to pay for these homes. The biggest challenges are around our ability to keep building new affordable housing at the scale and rate that is required, the increase in costs both in the construction industry and the maintenance industry and the skills shortages affect us as well.
The reduction in rents will mean that we will need to look again at reducing our costs at a time when costs are increasing and the tenure mix of the homes we will build. Associations will be set to be much more diverse businesses helping a range of people on different incomes.
Our resident’s on low incomes and particularly those with larger families will increasingly find it hard to afford our homes and will therefore be forced to make some difficult choices about where they can live.
At TVHA we work in very high value areas, our shared ownership homes are snapped up, people are scrambling for our Fizzy market rent homes, and our sub market rented homes are in huge demand. When we work with employers such as the NHS to help house their staff we again see a level of demand that can’t be met. The homes we build are absolutely critical for employers that need good housing for their workers and the most vulnerable who can’t access the market.
The government can best deal with this by recognising that we play a valuable part in meeting housing demand. We must ensure homes are developed by a range of organisations. House builders can’t and shouldn’t do it all. What we need and what we keep asking for is some consistency so we can plan ahead. We were just increasing homes built again after a falling period because of the way our programmes work and now we are having to figure out the new rules. This just adds delay and confusion. We know the current mantra is about home ownership but rented homes are urgently needed as well. Both market and sub market rented homes.
MIPIMWorld: You have been working in the housing sector for almost 30 years. In 2013, you received an OBE for your services to social housing. Can you tell us more about some of the specific projects you are working on at the moment?
That makes me feel old! The housing agenda is always changing and that is what makes working in the industry exciting. At the moment I am looking at the best way we at TVHA can use our resources to help the most people. This ranges from looking at how we can expand our employment programmes with tenants and their children to get more younger people into work and those who are most affected by the changes in welfare benefits. I am also working on the partnerships we have with a range of different organisation’s to see how we can further leverage what we do. We are doing some great work with Local Authorities on how we can increase affordable housing using both our resources to give them more homes and those that truly affordable to local people. We are working with the NHS to create more homes for key workers. We are also working on a digitalisation project across our organisation to increase the skills of our staff and design services that bring us in line with other customer first organisations.
MIPIMWorld: In your opinion, what can the UK expect from the state of the housing market over the next few years?
We will see an increase in initiatives to get more people into home ownership and more first time buyers on the ladder. With reductions in affordable housing and potentially a wobble in market for homes for sale we should see the Build to Rent market increase it’s presence. What we have planned now is not going to change the market any time soon and solve people’s housing problems and so we are going to see more people living in conditions we have not been used to seeing. Families sharing homes, young single people staying at home longer or making camps in woods, and people moving out of expensive areas commuting further for work. What we need is another market correction and at that point Housing Associations can come in and help stabalise things by building more rented homes!
Geeta Nanda, Chief Executive joined Thames Valley Housing in 2008. She was appointed to the TVHA Group Board in April 2011 and the Fizzy Enterprises Board in May 2013. Geeta has worked in the housing sector for over 25 years in housing associations, local government and research. Geeta is a Board Member for McCarthy & Stone. Geeta is a director of Fizzy Enterprises, the joint venture subsidiary.
She will speak at the MIPIM UK 2015 at the conference session The rise of PRS: A nation of renters? Follow her on Twitter @geeta_nanda and LinkedIn
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