What a year 2016 was! Trump and Brexit aside, we witnessed the social housing scene morph and shift more than ever. It is such a volatile landscape, never experienced before.
Are we witnessing Darwinism at its best? English naturalist and geologist Charles Darwin is usually misquoted as having said “Survival of the fittest”. What he actual said was:-
“It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change”.
Well, folks, the landscape is changing and we need to adapt to it or suffer.
Social housing: from one to many landlords
Mergers are happening weekly it would seem. Are they always a good thing? Economy of scale helps for sure. We have been here before when the stock was looked after by one large social owner known as the local authority.
Then under Margaret Thatcher, the government dismantled the old and built a new more agile sector.
Now it would appear that fragmentation is aggregating to form uber-social landlords. There will be good and bad to come from this consolidation of course. It is after all traditional for an emerging market to consolidate after a period. The cream rises to the top and acquisitions become the norm. This works well. Until it doesn’t, then it splinters again and we see smaller more nimble entities emerge to take on the big boys!
Where does the tenant sit in all these commercial deals? Does life get better or worse for them? In theory it should get better: a massive landlord should be better equipped to maintain and improve their stock, and ensure the basics for a modern house, including warmth. The financial clout of a solid bank balance means the landlord can leverage funding from investors more readily too.
But is there a down side to being 'uber'? (by that I mean, large and extreme, not the taxi company). Darwin would say yes - and no.
Bigger isn’t necessarily better. You can be the strongest and the most intelligent, but if the market shifts and you don’t react and change, you are dead in the water. The bigger the ship, the harder it can be to make those changes.
Social housing: Energy 2017
So what will happen in 2017 that will necessitate change?
- Mr Bonfield finally delivered on his promise and published his long awaited report in December 2016 'Each home counts'. What it contained was a summary of below par performance and a mission statement to industry that things need to improve. Regulation, verification, testing, policing and more integrity in the retrofit market.
- SAP 2016 is current out for consultation. That means EPCs will shift when done again, and you may well meet the standard today, but fail tomorrow. You need to be aware and ready for that prospect.
- Most significantly ECO2 becomes ECO3 some point. Will honeymoon periods apply to aid the transition? Probably. Will it suit the utility companies more than you, the social housing manager, probably? Do you need to know? Absolutely. ECO has been a means of funding, without which, tens of thousands of people would still be living in fuel poverty. Has it been a smooth journey without problem? Not really. Read Mr Bonfield's review for his thoughts.
Social housing: survival or thrive?
“The only thing that is constant is change”- Heraclitus, Greek Philosopher.
If social housing is to survive at all, it needs to adapt and evolve. More quickly than it is at the moment. HACT published a series of blogs in December 2016 about the need for social housing providers to go digital. Highlighting the fact that data is so poor in the sector, it's nigh on impossible to implement change based on anything more than gut feel.
You need to ask yourself:
"Will my organisation survive and thrive? What plans are in place to drive this change over the coming months and years? Do I need help? Where am I going to get advice? What tools are at my disposal to initiate change? What shape is my data in?"
Believe it or not, help is already out there.
Software like our own DREam toolset can help. Change can be scary. Most people dislike change, it's right up there with spiders and public speaking. But change you must in order to survive and thrive.
If you would like to know how DREam can help you
- mitigate risk,
- evaluate your portfolios,
- be up to date with the latest funding schemes and
- optimise your budget,