Thoughts on the National Housing Federation Annual Conference

Blogged by Emma Willey, SYT's Business Development Director

I love attending the National Housing Federation annual conference. As an exhibitor I also receive a pass into the conference itself and it is a superb way to immerse myself in the industry we serve. I love to sit quietly at the back and learn what the current topics are and also what people’s ideas are on those topics.

This year an overriding theme was uncertainty. No one really knows what the current government's policy towards the Housing Associations is (although Gavin Barwell M.P. certainly made the correct noises on stage and appeared to open a door for discussions). No one really knows what Brexit will mean for the industry and whilst in the health & safety industry we can take a good guess (see our article on Brexit) this is not so for others. Its impact has huge potential, I had no idea until the conference that 90% of HAs wood for new builds comes from the EU.

One of the only certainties is the troubling reductions Housing Associations are having to make, with cost cutting a major area for discussion. Whilst we know we can help in our field, in building and asset management there were real concerns. It was so interesting to see how the NHF membership approach it too – there is rarely one solution that fits all 1500 or so members. Flexibility and individuality came through loud and clear. Which made me proud of the flexibility of our own system, allowing it to adapt to those requirements. (see how here).

This year I saw Michael Heseltine speak. Irrespective of your views on his political beliefs I don't think anyone would deny he is a great orator. I was taken aback to hear he has been involved with inner city regeneration since 1979. Not just passively but in the nitty gritty of looking at the drugs problems, the lack of jobs, the lack of equity in the land. It was certainly a personal highlight to watch him 'perform'.

Over the last three years I have spent more time with HA’s. I’m not a consultant, I work in business development and don’t visit our HA’s as much as I would like. Every now and again, however, I will sneak a fabricated reason to accompany a colleague on a site visit so that I can witness first-hand the special relationships that exist between HA workers and their tenants. The genuine ‘homes’, not houses, that we visit and the genuine ‘community feel’ that exists. Not just as some phrase used by a marketing team, but as a real, tangible energy and relationship that is clear to see. That is so precious. I truly hope that they succeed in this year's goal to 'own their own future'. For SYT's part in assisting, we hope to start publishing some of the inspirational stories of HA’s we are working with so that they can all see the difference external publicity can make to how they are perceived.

Good luck all with your goals for the next 12 months …
own your own future.