By Paul Dolan, Chief Executive
"I recently attended one of Julian Ashby's leaving dinners, held to recognise his steadfast work at the centre of regulation as Chair of the Homes and Communities Agency, now Homes England.
Julian challenged the table of chief executives and consultants with the question “how do we fix the broken housing market?”
After discussing taxation, planning, land, quality and the lack of a coherent housing strategy for the long term, the consensus from CEOs around the table was "we’ve just got to get on with what we do day in, day out."
The work of housing association can often be buffeted by the changing winds of political opinion or dogma. Crisis and tragedy can rightly shift our focus. Sometimes we feel unloved as a sector, that nobody understands us. But, we are here for a purpose - an important purpose, but one that is sometimes misunderstood, not always focused and seen as self-serving.
At a recent meeting of chief executives, one described housing associations as the ‘glue’ that keeps society together, something we all feel to be true. Our role in supporting our communities is more vital than ever and, what is undeniable, is that when we get it right we fundamentally change and improve people’s lives.
Let’s not get hung up about the politicians and policymakers, or anyone else who doesn’t value our impact. Our purpose is about providing that safe, secure place people can call home - and more of those places to help more people.
Recently, I met a guy in Accrington (Lancashire) who had been street homeless in London for 10 years, a serious drug user for many of those. He was delighted he now had a one-bedroom flat he could call his own, building his confidence and a life with a new network of friends. I met a young family in temporary accommodation in Surrey who, with the stability of a family home, can build a life to give those children a more secure and stable foundation to live, learn and love.
Day in, day out, each month, each year housing associations across the country do brilliant, amazing work that should inspire our politicians and the general public. We don’t always get it right, but far more often than not, we absolutely do.
So, if housing associations did not exist, I know our society would be a gloomier place. A place where towns, cities and neighbourhoods would lament that housing associations and the dedicated and committed people who work for them were no longer around.
A place where for many the only option would be to rent from private landlords, some only concerned with making a profit, most without purpose; not the security, stability or happiness of their tenants.
For the people we work for, those for whom we provide a home they can call their own, society would just have added another problem to their list. When they hit a bump in the road who would provide that extra layer of support to get back on track? All this would be gone – and so would be what may be the last option to keep a home. At Accent we’re crystal clear about our strategic priorities.
The Accent Board has set those strategic priorities in our new, ambitious corporate strategy. More new homes, improving existing homes, fantastic services offering more choice, and developing our team to excel.
So, let’s get on doing what we do day in, day out, and let’s help the politicians, the public and anyone else who is interested in the positive impact we make day in, day out to help us improve people’s lives. Let’s take the opportunity to promote what we do more widely and be better understood - and, who’s best to tell that story? Who else but our residents.
Some Accent residents have told us about their personal journeys and the impact a housing association can make to their lives. This is not just Accent’s story, indeed it could be any housing association making that real, positive impact to people's lives.
If you have time take a look at clips from our film 'SoFar' – we've included a trailer below – which features residents and staff telling their stories.
They are inspirational, moving and uplifting but, then again, that’s just what we do.