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Transformation of a sector – social housing

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Transformation of a sector – social housing

Published: March 29, 2021

Comments on the government’s Social Housing White Paper from Ian Heesom, Relationship Manager, Unity Trust Bank for North West Insider.

Ian Heesom, Unity Trust Bank Social Housing

“The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic last year and resulting operational restrictions meant that many social housing providers were unable to carry out planned maintenance and improvements, and new entrants to the market were fairly static.

In many ways, it was a ‘lost’ year at a critical time when the sector is under significant pressure, to meet increasing demand whilst ensuring that it is responding to greater regulation and meeting environmental targets.

“In stark contrast, we have already seen a marked shift in activity since the start of 2021, driven in large part by renewed confidence as a result of the UK’s vaccination programme.

As a result, we expect that many social housing providers will be looking to drive forward their repairs, maintenance and refurbishment this year whilst at the same time moving ahead with the acquisition of new sites.

“Whilst many providers are playing ‘catch-up’ as a result of the challenges of 2020, the wider issue at stake is the drive to build greener, more energy efficient homes and the decarbonisation of social housing.

With the government’s target that all social homes must be a minimum of EPC C by 2030, and an estimated 44% of social homes in England believed to be below that rating, there are a huge number of considerations for providers, particularly smaller housing associations across the region who will be feeling the burden.

“At Unity Trust Bank, we welcome the government’s Social Housing White Paper and its recommendations, in light of the increasing need for social homes which has been intensified as a result of the pandemic.

We are already speaking to a number of customers where decarbonisation is high on the agenda, and who are looking to get ahead and tackle this proactively. We are particularly interested in supporting housing associations to reduce their environmental impact and improve energy efficiency through propositions such as communal heating networks.

“However, there will be many others who, as a result of the pressures of last year, haven’t been able to start planning for this yet. All operators will be watching the results of the government’s £50m Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund with great interest, to see the impact on the seventeen pilot projects, whilst waiting for clarity on how the additional £60m pot, announced during the Chancellor’s November Spending Review, will be allocated.

“The social housing sector undoubtedly has a challenging path to navigate over the next decade, whilst being instrumental in creating accessible spaces, affordable accommodation and an enhanced quality of life for those who need it most.

Having support and guidance from professionals who understand the sector, and its opportunities and challenges, will be critical.”

Unity Trust Bank is a specialist commercial lender dedicated to supporting organisations that share its values and vision to deliver positive social change. Unity’s housing association customers in the North West include Lakeland Housing Trust and Care Housing Association.