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Sector may be unable to deliver low-income housing – Smith Institute

Housing associations need a new balance between social values and commercial needs, a report by the Smith Institute highlights. This is due to both the changing policy and economic context.

The study, conducted in partnership with Genesis, is based on interviews with 50 housing associations chief executives and housing experts in London and the South East.

Results shows there could be little new conventional low-rent social housing without a granted return, but many think homes for private rent should be genuinely additional to social housing.

In high demand areas, rents can be unaffordable for low income households and housing associations are likely to have to take tough decisions to minimise rent arrears following welfare reforms.

The study indicates more innovative deals with institutional investors will be likely, as well as mergers to increase capacity for further borrowing.

Denise Chevin, report author, said: “Clearly it’s a challenging time for housing associations moving forward and there is much creative thinking. But we are likely to see more tension in the board room between their social obligations and ethos and their need to be more commercial.”

Paul Hackett, director of the Smith Institute, said: “The general impression amongst housing association leaders is that the sector remains resilient and will see out the recession. What is less clear is the ability of the sector to provide new housing for those on low income.”

Neil Hadden, chief executive of Genesis, said: “As we increasingly face a low-subsidy future, we recognise that as independent modern organisations we need to evolve and shape our future. Our social ethos will always remain but we need to further develop a more commercial mind.”

Tell us what you think – have your say below, or email us directly at


Chris Pentland, Wickes   07/05/2013 at 17:32

As Denise says, it is a challenging time for housing associations. The waiting list for social housing properties is a key concern for housing associations along with the need to reduce costs. The provision of decorating vouchers goes a long way towards helping these organisations. It means they are not dependent on the availability of decorating teams to work on properties, and this speeds up the overall process, meaning the tenant can be housed sooner.

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