8 March 2022

Kate Henderson, Chief Executive at the NHF discusses being back together at this year’s Summit and reinvigorating our housing association purpose.

Nearly four years ago, I attended my first National Housing Summit. It feels in some ways like a different world, but, though much has changed, it’s striking how many of the big issues we discussed in 2018 are still with us. If anything, they have become more urgent.

Climate change is making its effects visible around the world and has become one of the biggest priorities for the government and for the housing sector. The safety and quality of our homes has always been our top priority, but the scale of investment and change needed both in our sector and across the whole housing market is now clear. And, while we have made a strong commitment to building greater trust and transparency with our residents, we know that we have further to go.

Despite these challenges being very present four years ago, I also remember clearly the optimism and purpose I saw at my first Summit. I remember the young leaders talking about solving the big issues in society, the creative problem-solving and debate, and the drive to work with each other and with partners across government and the country.

That optimism is what we need as we emerge from two long, hard years of the pandemic to look again at the issues we must tackle. Added to these is the mounting cost of living crisis which affects our residents and communities acutely.

So, for the past six months, we’ve been talking to you and to our partners about the future of the housing association sector and how we can work together to deliver your purpose. These conversations, carried out as part of our strategic review of the housing association sector, have been illuminating and inspiring.

There has been strong consensus on housing associations’ core social purpose. You’ve said you exist to provide truly affordable, safe, good quality homes for those in housing need. Your services help people live well and you play your part in creating places where communities thrive. You also identified challenges, strengths and vulnerabilities facing the sector.

A full report on our sector review will be published soon, followed by the new NHF three-year strategy, which is being shaped by your social purpose. We’ll set out how, together, we can use the findings from the review to deliver your social purpose in the coming years.

It will then be time to act. As Covid (we hope) takes up less space in our lives and work, the other challenges we face become more prominent. The climate emergency, the need to invest in safety and quality, and an unpredictable economy and cost of living crisis – these are things that will affect us, but also give our purpose fresh urgency. We are needed, and we must deliver on our strengths and tackle our weaknesses to deliver for communities.

The National Housing Summit will be a crucial, and long-awaited, opportunity to reflect on how the sector can deliver its purpose and hear ideas and challenges from stakeholders, residents and commentators. This theme will run throughout the two days at the ICC and has shaped the whole programme , from big-picture debates to collaborative roundtables. We always believe the Summit is a strategic milestone and a vital opportunity for housing association leaders to come together. This year, I think it will be more vital than ever.

We’re recovering from a devastating crisis and trying to imagine what our future will hold, and how we can shape it. This brings hope and uncertainty in equal measure. I’m looking forward to debating this with you in Birmingham in September, and throughout the coming year. The sector’s powerful social purpose, and our determination to meet the social and economic challenges ahead, makes me convinced that hope will win out.

Kate Henderson

Kate Henderson is Chief Executive at the NHF.

National Housing Summit 2022: renewing our sector's purpose and vision