GOT VACANCIES? THEN POST ‘EM…

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If you’re running some kind of housing organisation, the chances are high that you require human beings to take on certain roles to ensure its ongoing operation. (Dave Wallaby’s attempt to single-handedly run 58,000-unit Galaxian Homes in the 80s proved to be a huge fool’s errand.)

With this in mind, how would you like to reach a massive audience of housing professionals as you search the world for top talent? If this sound delightful, you should really be posting your job vacancies with HQN!

Whether you’re looking for some new blood for your executive team, a board member, or perhaps someone eager to kick-start their career in the sector, we can advertise your vacancies to thousands of housing organisations across the UK.

Need a finance executive in London? A maintenance officer in Manchester? A surveyor in Cardiff? A, I dunno, particle physicist in Hastings for some reason? HQN will help you find the right person for the job.

The service is FREE for members of our specialist networks, and we frequently share vacancies in our dedicated mailings. You can view currently jobs listed on this bit of internet here.

Members need only login and complete the form to post a vacancy.

For more information about our specialist networks and the benefits of membership, please get in touch.

 

The 2018 housing review of the year 

2018

In an exclusive article for HQN members, Jules Birch reflects on an eventful year for the housing sector and looks ahead to what’s in store in 2019.

What’s in a name?

In a world of endless rebrands and relaunches it was easy to be cynical in January when the Ministry for Housing Communities and Local Government and Homes England emerged blinking into the limelight.

Yet as the previous names of the department and agency responsible for housing disappeared into the dustbin it still felt like a significant moment: for the first time in more than 40 years, housing was back at the Cabinet table, a secretary of state featuring it in his title; and the new departmental moniker recalled the glory days when council housing had support across the political spectrum.

At the same time, the ugly duckling of the Homes and Communities Agency was reborn as the slightly self-regarding swan of Homes England, with more funding and a brief to ‘fix the broken housing market’.

Housing minister revolving door

If 2017 had sent housing soaring up the political agenda thanks to the shock of the election result and brought social housing back on to the radar after the disaster at Grenfell Tower, then 2018 seemed to be starting as the government meant to go on. Or at least it did for the few days it took for the revolving door at Marsham Street to swing shut behind the latest ex-housing minister.

Alok Sharma had been plunged in at the deep end when he was appointed in the same week as the Grenfell fire but had impressed with his willingness to listen to tenants at a series of roadshows ahead of the social housing Green Paper. Now he exited stage right to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), pursued by Universal Credit.

Stepping into his shoes was Dominic Raab, an ambitious Brexiteer but not a man noted for much previous interest in housing. Sure enough, one of his first acts as minister was to insist his officials brief him on the impact of immigration on house prices so that he could feed a headline to the Sunday Times.

An increase of £11,000 sounded a lot but on closer examination it turned out to be just 8% of the total increase in prices over the last 25 years. The ultimate source of his information? A report from a quango created under Labour that had been abruptly shut down by Grant Shapps and Eric Pickles in 2010.

It was possible to dismiss much of this as distraction at the time. His boss Sajid Javid remained in place as housing secretary with the Cabinet rank and apparent determination to drive through his promises to fix the broken housing market and publish a Green Paper to fix social housing.

But then he too was reshuffled to the Home Office to be replaced by James Brokenshire. A Theresa May loyalist returning from a successful battle with cancer, he seemed dull and uninspiring. However, where Javid had sometimes given the impression of doing just enough to look like he was doing something, he turned out to be unafraid of decisions his predecessor had shied away from on issues like a ban on combustible cladding.

Raab himself lasted a mere 181 days before being promoted to become Secretary of State for Leaving the European Union, the job he really wanted but ended up resigning from when it turned out that the job description turned out to be more like literally secretary.

And so it was hello to Kit Malthouse, a former Westminster councillor who wins the housing minister of the year award by virtue of being still behind at his desk.

Progress?

With ministers coming and going as rapidly as football managers, it would be easy to dismiss 2018 as a wasted year but look back at the last 12 months and there is solid evidence of progress. Housebuilding numbers are rising, if not yet anywhere close to the government’s target of 300,000 a year.

A review by former Cabinet minister Sir Oliver Letwin advocated radical reforms of planning (though not land) to get large sites built out quicker. And several of the (anti-) social housing policies that David Cameron and George Osborne had taken from the backs of envelopes at right-wing think tanks moved from the back burner to the incinerator.

The non-implementation of the forced sales levy for council housing and repeal of mandatory fixed-term tenancies for new council tenants were confirmed when the Social Housing Green Paper was finally published in a ‘housing week’ hastily organised when most people were on holiday in August.

That in turn implied the end of the extension of the Right to Buy to housing association tenants (which the levy ways meant to pay for). And the Green Paper also backtracked on more of the Shapps-Pickles vandalism from 2010, proposing more powers for the regulator of social housing and new rights of redress, and maybe even national representation for tenants.

True, there were groans when it also confirmed plans for league tables of social landlords – evidence from schools and hospitals suggest managers much of their time gaming the system – but there was also a startling proposal to link grant to how tenants rate their landlord’s performance.

The shadow of Grenfell

All this, of course, came from a government desperate to show that it was listening to tenants in the wake of Grenfell.

The year began with painfully slow progress on the removal of dangerous aluminium composite material (ACM) cladding and carefully calibrated non-commitments from
ministers and continued with a series of cases of leaseholders facing huge bills for the replacement of ACM on their blocks.

It ended with confirmation of a ban on combustible materials on new residential buildings over 18m, and Westminster backing for local authorities to take action on private blocks where owners were dragging their feet.

And all the while the Grenfell inquiry continued with tales of tragedy from survivors, controversy over stay-put advice to residents and evidence from experts that revealed failures at every conceivable level in the refurbishment of the block in what one of them called Grenfell’s ‘culture of non-compliance’.

Grenfell will continue to cast its shadow over the sector for years to come, regardless of what and who the inquiry eventually finds was to blame.

A grim reminder of this came in May with the 50th anniversary of the collapse of Ronan Point, which was until Grenfell social housing’s worst disaster – incredibly half a century later there are still concerns about the structural safety of large panel system blocks.

The impact of Grenfell was felt not just in the national Green Paper but at a local level too, as the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea appeared to recast its entire housing policy to put residents first.

Where once it had seemed committed as anywhere else to the regeneration of what David Cameron had notoriously called ‘sink estates’, now it pledged that ‘we will refit and refurbish, but not remove and rebuild’.

And council leader Kim Taylor-Smith even launched a stinging attack on England’s biggest housing association, Clarion, over its ‘morally wrong’ redevelopment plans for the Sutton estate in Chelsea.

Back in the game

That came in the same month as perhaps the biggest surprise of the year as the prime minister used her party conference speech in October to announce what everyone was hoping for but did not quite believe would ever happen: the end of the borrowing cap on council housing.

The impact of this measure on the ground remains to be seen – the Office for Budget Responsibility poured a bucket of cold water on expectations of an extra 10,000 council homes a year by predicting the policy would produce just 9,000 by 2023/24 and many local authorities have already set up housing companies outside of the Housing Revenue Account system – but the symbolism was undeniable.

A Conservative Party that had spent decades cutting what it could not sell off and selling what it could not cut had only grudgingly allowed councils back into the game.

It had introduced self-financing in 2012 but with caps imposed on the borrowing it still did not trust local authorities to do wisely. The caps were raised in the 2017 Budget but even in January this year the housing minister was telling MPs that scrapping them would be unsustainable.

But things were changing quickly. Bidding for the increased caps was over-subscribed by many times. In August the housing secretary even harked back to the glory days of Harold Macmillan when he quoted the 1951 Tory manifesto on housing being ‘the first social service’ in the Green Paper.

In September, Theresa May spoke at the National Housing Federation’s conference (a first in itself), heaped praise on housing associations and social housing and even preannounced £2bn worth of long-term funding.

And behind the scenes a cross-party campaign fronted by the irrepressible Conservative chairman of the Local Government Association Lord Porter had finally paid off: the caps would be scraped more or less immediately, and without any of the usual Treasury strings.

Dark clouds

And yet for all that good news the future of housing remains uncertain and dark clouds are gathering on the political horizon.

For all the positive messages in the Green Paper, there were still some wrong notes: fighting stigma with street parties and neighbourhood competition; and valuing social housing in one breath but saying it should be a springboard to home ownership with the next.

Worrying evidence emerged about the quality of homes in offices converted via permitted development even as the government planned an expansion of the deregulated system and as private equity continued its expansion into rented housing the government called for proposals for private shared ownership.

The impact of years of austerity continued to be felt in levels of homelessness and rough sleeping. For all ministers’ enthusiasm about Housing First and the Homelessness Prevention Act ‘welfare reform’ continued to make things worse.

The benefit freeze is set to continue until 2020 after the chancellor rejected the chance to soften it in the Budget, more or less guaranteeing that the end of a private rented sector tenancy will continue to be the single biggest cause of homelessness.

The benefit cap and the bedroom tax continue to turn the screw on disabled families and single parents with young children.

And the roll-out of Universal Credit continues remorselessly. For all the concessions made by ministers, for all the tweaks made to the system, the year ended with the Managed Migration of existing benefit claimants hurtling down the track and some landlords were finding the alternative payment arrangements that are meant to help vulnerable tenants even more cumbersome than the existing system.

In November, the United Nations Rapporteur on extreme poverty produced a devastating report saying that poverty levels in Britain are ‘not just a disgrace, but a social calamity and an economic disaster all rolled into one’.

The government has ‘stubbornly refused to see the situation for what it is,’, said Professor Roger Alstom, and ‘remained determinedly in a state of denial’. Needless to say, the DWP denied it.

The B word

But few at Westminster had much attention to spare for anything other than Brexit and even fewer could confidently predict whether the outcome would be a Deal, No Deal, Canada, Norway, a general election or a second referendum.

Warnings from the Bank of England of a house price collapse in the wake of No Deal were starting to concentrate minds in a social housing sector far more reliant on market sales than it was in 2008.

If January saw the collapse of the outsourcing giant Carillion, a dire warning of what can go wrong, then at least housing could give thanks that it had never adopted the Private Finance Initiative on any scale.

As the year drew to a close there was news of a 39% increase in the number of affordable home ownership units unsold for more than six months. And that potentially troubling taste of things to come was put into perspective by shocking official figures showing almost 600 homeless people on the streets or in temporary accommodation in 2017, an increase of 24% on five years ago. Only two days before, James Brokenshire had told The Guardian that he saw the huge increase in rough sleeping since 2010 as the result of a combination of addiction and family breakdown rather than government policies. By Christmas Eve he was admitting that the Conservatives ‘need to ask ourselves some very hard questions’ about the issue and saying that changes to policy were needed.

Whoever the ministers are, and whatever the departments they run are called, it was a worrying end to a year that had generally brought more good news than bad.

However, rough sleeping and homelessness are just two of the big issues on his agenda for 2019. With consultation responses due on the social housing Green Paper, regulation, leasehold reform and longer private tenancies there too, not to mention the aftermath of Grenfell and housebuilding delivery, good intentions will only go so far.

Launching: the HQN Leadership and Organisational Development Hub

By Jane Atherton, lead associate of HQN’s new Leadership and Organisational Development Hub

As this is my first blog for HQN, I thought it would be helpful to introduce myself.

I’m an independent consultant with 30 years’ experience of working in organisational development (OD) and human resources (HR). I have led large, multi-disciplinary teams mainly in social housing and as a freelance consultant I have worked with a wide variety of organisations from the public, private and voluntary sectors.

A Chartered Fellow of the CIPD, I’m an executive coach and a coach supervisor. I’m passionate about employee engagement and helping organisations to be the best they can be in service of their customers and their workforce.

I’ve been a voluntary board member of a number of organisations and I’m currently chair of Ashton Pioneer Homes in Ashton under Lyne.

On a personal note, I live in the North West with my family and enjoy walking and running.

Some thoughts on the Leadership and Organisational Development Hub

OD is more than just having the right learning and development programmes in place for your workforce. It is about creating an operating environment that means your people have the right skills, are in the right roles, at the right time. Improving the functioning of individuals, teams and organisations is at the heart of OD.

More and more organisations are existing in a context of rapid and continuous change, digital disruption and complexity. OD professionals and teams need to be at the top of their game if they are to support their businesses to achieve their strategic aims and priorities.

Over the course of 2019, I am hoping that together with members we’ll be able to create a learning community space that will help to bring OD professionals and teams together from across the sector and beyond; to learn from each other and hear about new approaches within the field.

 Benefits of joining the hub

  • Opportunity to connect with other members to form new relationships and share good practice
  • Develop the experience, knowledge and capabilities of your OD/HR team by broadening their skills, experiences and knowledge
  • Access to resources blogs and toolkits
  • Attendance at forums and events

What’s planned for 2019?

One of the key areas that I’m keen to launch is the fantastic coaching service that HQN can offer its members from January 2019, including:

  • Access to a portfolio of qualified coaches and mentors that can support your people to achieve their targets and objectives
  • Support for organisations to develop their coaching strategy, policies and procedures
  • Training for managers to become internal coaches
  • Continuous professional development for internal coaches
  • Team coaching sessions
  • Individual and/or group coaching supervision sessions

So, whether you want to introduce a coaching culture to your organisation or you have people who would benefit from working with a coach, get in touch with us to find out more.

Peer-to-peer networking

Collaborating and learning from each other will be a big focus for the hub. We’ll facilitate four forum meetings a year for hub members. Our first meeting will take place in February when we’ll bring everyone together for the first time to gather information about what hot topics you want to hear about during the year.

Access to information and resources

Members will have access to all the resources available through the hub. We’ll provide toolkits and good practice briefings on topical subjects from the world of OD. Some of our early thoughts for resources include:

  • Operating in a VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) world and supporting our workforces to be resilient
  • Building agility into our organisations
  • Approaches to change and transformation
  • Employee engagement and what some of the best companies are doing on this
  • Employer ownership of skills and the apprenticeship levy
  • Building talent pipelines and employer branding
  • Psychological safety in the workplace
  • OD models and approaches
  • And much more…

But we’re keen to engage with members to find out about your business challenges, so the hub can help you to identify actionable solutions through the sharing of good practice, providing resources and solutions.

Conferences and events

We’re very excited to be working with The Leadership Trust to bring you a series of leadership events throughout the year.

The Leadership Trust has four decades’ worth of experience working with some of the UK’s top blue-chip companies. Their team of experts help people to find their own leadership style, enabling people to perform under pressure and deliver results.

The Trust’s philosophy is to show and coach people, guiding them to their own conclusions. It has its own leadership development assessment tool which is designed to give individuals an understanding of their preferred leadership styles and drivers.

The Leadership Trust delivers high impact experiential leadership development, which changes behaviour and transforms individuals, teams and organisations for clients across the globe. With foundations in the Special Forces, the Trust’s approach has been honed over four decades with expert input from behavioural psychologists and specialists in leadership development. The Trust has worked with over 70,000 individuals covering 250 active companies each year.

Is the hub for you?

If your organisation doesn’t have a specific OD team then being a member of the hub could help by giving you access to support, information, contacts and resources. If you’re an OD professional working in or around the housing sector, the hub will help you find out what works for others, discuss your experiences and develop professionally.

What can you expect?

We’ll be bringing you experts from within the field who can share their knowledge and experience.

We’ll research what all the best companies are doing and share this with you through our resources.

There will be conversations about best practice and you’ll have the opportunity to share information and network with like-minded people. Picking up new ideas and thinking about how they can be implemented back in the workplace.

Become a member

If this sounds interesting, get in contact with us to learn more about being a member of the Leadership and Organisational Development Hub.

Email us at networks@hqnetwork.co.uk

Call us on 01904 557150

UK rents drop for first time in decade

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Renters – here’s some rare good news: UK rental costs have fallen for the first time in 10 long years.

The Deposit Protection Scheme’s latest figures reveal that the average rent tumbled by 1.17% (a whole £9!) last year.

Apparently, average rents were £774 (a month, I assume) in 2017, falling to an ever so slightly more bearable £765 in 2018.

At £21 (3.63%) Yorkshire and the Humber recorded the biggest drop, while costly old London experienced the biggest cash fall at £30 – though, naturally, the average monthly price there is still a disturbing £1,294.

Dan Wilson Craw, director of campaign group Generation Rent, said: ‘Falling rents are great news and, despite constant warnings of increases from the property industry, these figures demonstrate that landlords can’t simply demand more whenever they want to.

‘This should give tenants confidence in negotiating with their landlord – it’s always worth checking rents in the local market if you’re being asked to pay more. For many of us, however, rents are still oppressively high and only a sustained fall will bring about a noticeable improvement in living standards.’

 

A Week in Housing

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Struggling to buy your own home? Why not move to Sicily and buy one for 80p? Baffled? Thrilled? Scared? Keep reading – I’ll try to explain.

A city called Sambuca has decided to drastically cut the prices of houses in an attempt to get people to move to the area.

Why? Because too many people have fled the bucolic paradise on the hunt for adventure and opportunity in so-called ‘urban metropolises’, which are becoming increasingly popular.

Speaking to CNN, the lonely town’s deputy mayor said: ‘As opposed to other towns that have merely done this for propaganda, this city hall owns all €1 houses on sale.

‘We’re not intermediaries who liaise between old and new owners. You want that house, you’ll get it no time.’

But before you bolt off with an Italian language book and hastily packed suitcase, keen to leave this rapidly disintegrating isle behind, there are some conditions.

Firstly, after handing over your 80p (or one Euro as they call it over there) you’ll be expected to fix your new home up within three years, with a minimum spend of £13,200, which makes one wonder what sort of state these ‘houses’ are in.

Secondly, as far as I can make out from the vague reportage, it looks like you might need a job as well, so lazy romantic types looking to drop out early may have to think again.

Thirdly, I’m no expert but isn’t Sicily kind of run by the mafia? Thus you may be paying ‘additional fees’ for ‘insurance’ on your property indefinitely.

Anyway, according to the deputy mayor ‘this fertile patch of land is dubbed the “earthly paradise”. We’re located inside a nature reserve, packed with history. Gorgeous beaches, woods and mountains surround us. It’s silent and peaceful, an idyllic retreat for a detox stay.’

Sounds a bit desperate, doesn’t he?

I’d like to provide you with a link should you be interested in pursuing this dreamy yet dubious offer but I can’t find one. Try international directory enquiries?

***

Britain’s favourite cliched terrible landlord, Fergus Wilson, has suddenly issued eviction notices to nearly 100 households – the latest step in his strategy to become the country’s most comically unpleasant character.

The 90 households in Ashford, Kent have two months to find somewhere else to live as the burly property baron looks to sell off his 700-home portfolio – perhaps to spend more time with the balloons he appears to have started shoving under his shirt for some reason.

The Dickensian parody said: ‘I feel remorse but, at the same time, I am going to have to do it. If I give them six months, so what? Unless somebody is going to rapidly build a lot more houses, where do the people live in the meantime?’

However, the corpulent freeholder blamed the lack of homes for his soon to be jettisoned human cargo to move into on national policy and, naturally, immigration from the hated eastern Europe.

(Sun and Daily Mail writers and readers: it’s stuff like this that makes Jeremy Corbyn popular, if you’re still scratching your heads.)

Anyhow, Fergus and his equally admired wife, Judith, can expect to net £200 million if they sell off their whole portfolio. The system works!

***

From housing news of the worst kind to housing news of a very good kind: apparently, a social landlord’s efforts to improve its stock has boosted the Scottish economy by £2 billion (a figure I suspect the Wilsons eye greedily while long spools of saliva disgorge from their agape cakeholes).

Since 2003, Glasgow Housing Association has transformed over 70,000 properties and built 2,485 affordable homes.

Now the Fraser of Allander Institute, whatever that is, has found that the gigantic project has supported nearly 2,500 full-time jobs per year and helped create tonnes of cash for the economy.

GHA’s tenant chairwoman Bernadette Hewitt said: ‘The transformation of social housing in Glasgow has been a key element in the resurgence of this great city over the past 15 years.

‘GHA’s massive modernisation, demolition and re-provisioning programme has changed not only the Glasgow skyline, it has ensured tens-of-thousands of families across the city are living in modern, warm, safe and fuel-efficient homes.’

You see – good things still happen, sometimes. Here’s the whole story.

***

Events, events, events, events, events – we’ve got events!

And the first event I’m going to tell you about today is…Amazing workspaces.

Is your workspace amazing? I work at home, in a shed, thus I don’t have to put up with the nuisance of other people and their opinions – though I’m also crushingly lonely and sad. But I digress.

In association with Great Places to Work, the event will look at:

  • Amazing workplaces – what they look and feel like
  • How good office design can attract and retain the best employees
  • Great places to work – hear from housing providers who are up there with the top employers
  • How technology will shape the workplace of tomorrow
  • The importance of getting the right culture
  • Employee health and wellbeing – how we can make a difference.

Lots and lots of other interesting info can be accessed by clicking this link – which is for Manchester, I’ve just realised. If you live closer to or actually in the borough of London, click this link for that event.

Good governance. Sounds like the conceptual title for a new BBC Two sitcom about the capers in some low-level government department – but more the gentle nonsense of ‘”Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em” than the scathing hostility of “The Thick of It”. Where was I?

Oh yes: Good governance. Daunted by IDAs? Fearful of governance reviews? Lost in the undergrowth of regulatory standards and codes of governance?

Then you should be all over this event what we have planned, dripping as it will be with the following:

  • What’s the purpose of governance?
  • What should a board do, and what shouldn’t it do?
  • What’s the best governance structure and framework for your organisation?
  • How do you attract and retain high quality board members with the right skills?
  • How to listen to the resident voice in governance – and act on it?
  • How can you maximise the effectiveness of the board as a team?
  • Beyond the boardroom – what should happen between meetings?
  • Supporting governance – what’s the role of the company secretary
  • What does the regulator expect, and how might it change in the future?

We’re holding it in the parishes of London, Manchester and Birmingham. And here’s a link to find out more and book tickets, which you’ll need if you want to come.

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