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Research Seminars & Workshops @ IRES


Dr Nicky Morrison
University of Cambridge

Standing at the Crossroads: The Uncertain Future of the Non-profit Housing Association Sector in England


Date:

08 December 2015 (Tuesday)

Time:

10.00am - 11.30am

Venue:

RMI Executive Seminar Room, 21 Heng Mui Keng Terrace, I3 Building, Level 4


Abstract

Originally seen as the ‘third arm’ of English housing policy, the purpose of the independent, non-profit housing association sector was initially to ‘fill the gap’ where the state or market were unable to provide for households in need. Successive governments have subsequently viewed these organisations as their preferred partner in developing and managing subsidised rental housing, as opposed to seemingly bureaucratic and inefficient local authorities. As a consequence the sector faced rapid expansion and following the Housing Act 1988 became the main providers of new social housing. Their ability to raise private finance enabled housing associations to develop affordable housing and the sector expanded further through transfers of formerly local authority owned stock. However, following the 2015 General Election their favourable position has fundamentally changed, and the sector now faces a critical juncture in its history. The purpose of this presentation is to explain how and why the role of the housing association sector in addressing housing need is being called into question and to analyse how individual organisations are being forced to re-examine their performance and overall purpose.

The sector faces a highly uncertain future, marked by increased levels of antagonism from central government including questioning of their operating efficiencies and criticism at their lack of progress in developing housing. In 2015, the Conservative government announced a series of proposals to overhaul the sector, including major welfare changes, reduced grant funding, rent restrictions and the sale of properties to sitting tenants. These radical measures not only signal a withdrawal of state support for the sector, but have also generated wider debates about how organisations can ensure their long-term survival in an era of minimal public funding and insecurity. The presentation highlights the strategic choices that housing associations face attempting to meet government expectations and maintaining service delivery. Whilst the responses inevitably vary by organisation, what is clear is that all housing associations are being forced to re-examine their business plans and make substantial efficiency savings. Many have, in turn, argued the need for the sector to re-invent itself, with high profile announcements that individual organisations can no longer build subsidised rental housing and instead will focus solely on market sales in the future. The presentation concludes by considering the wider implications for affordable housing provision if this direction of travel within the sector continues.

About the Speaker

Dr Nicky Morrison is a housing academic based in the Department of Land Economy, University of Cambridge. She has over 20 years of experience in examining how changing government policy and market conditions impact on the housing sector and affect affordable housing delivery. She has worked on numerous collaborative housing research projects involving UK and international researchers, funded by the European Commission, Nordic-Baltic, German and UK governments. She has advised the Shenzhen municipal government on their affordable housing policies and has worked on an Amnesty International project on housing rights in Accra, Ghana (she continues to advise NGOs and inter-governmental organisations within the country). She has been appointed co-chair of the ‘Social housing, institutions, organisations and governance’ working group of the European Network of Housing Researchers (ENHR). She is currently working on a project involving European academics in the European Federation for Living that is looking at ‘Affordable Housing Governance and Finance across Europe’. Nicky has been an invited guest speaker at numerous global universities and research institutes, and is a long-serving Board member of a national Housing Association. She regularly provides advice to national, regional and local housing and planning bodies, and is frequently invited to the high-level, roundtable housing-agenda discussions.

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