Our Experience at the Housing Finance Conference
This year, we took Boston Hale on the road and travelled to Liverpool for the Housing Finance Conference. Held at the iconic ACC Liverpool, the Housing Finance Conference is the largest and most respected finance event in social housing and, lucky for us, this year was the largest conference to date, with over 1300 attendees. Exhibiting at an event of this scale gave us a unique opportunity to meet with a variety of finance professionals and explore how they plan to initiate transformation and propose resolutions in the housing sector.
With so many informative sessions and workshops available, it was an exciting and eye-opening experience from start to finish. It is hard to sum up the whole experience at the conference in one small blog post. We have therefore highlighted the 4 key points that stood out for us:
- Development Vs Customer Service
There is no doubt that the demand for the development of new homes is huge. The National Housing Federation reported that “England needs 340,000 new homes a year– including 145,000 affordable homes – until 2031, to meet current demand.” With so much pressure to meet requirements, Housing Associations risk sacrificing their already contested levels of customer service. The need to keep customer service at the forefront of everyone’s mind was frequently repeated at the conference.
- Tenant Trust
If the government is to hit its target of building 160,000 homes by 2020, the need for continued and consistent funding is clear. However, the current political climate is creating an unprecedented level of uncertainty and risk in the housing sector. Housing Associations therefore need to make substantial improvements in tenant relationships in order to prove that they are providing value for money and, as a result, increase the government’s trust in them to secure future funding.
It is clear that a ‘no deal’ Brexit is currently the biggest risk to the Housing Associations. The Brexit fallout can already be seen in the housing and construction sector, particularly in London which has traditionally relied heavily on a European workforce, many of whom have returned overseas since the referendum result. This, combined with concerns surrounding pricing of imported construction materials, means that Housing Associations are feeling the pressure, and are having to create a business model to cope. However, with uncertainty surrounding the Brexit outcome still continuing, creating a viable model is an obvious challenge.
Housing Associations need to build more homes but simultaneously focus on how to effectively expand. L&Q recently reported that, whilst still dedicated to its expansion plans in London, it has been forced to look further north in order to meet its target of building 100,000 new houses over the next decade. The need for expansion will naturally create competition for the limited land available in the capital. Housing Associations have to take note from each other and ensure that larger associations help the smaller, rather than negate them, in order to ensure growth plans are met.
Recruitment trends in the housing sector
On our stand, one of the major talking points centred around the growing area of Development Finance, a growing area with a limited pool of experienced people. Whilst it is without question that the need for qualified Development Finance professionals will be paramount in working through the challenging year ahead, the question is how Housing Associations can find the best way to staff this area given the short supply of expertise available. Housing Associations are therefore looking at implementing training initiatives for internal staff and bringing in people from outside the sector with related skills as viable methods of sourcing the necessary talent.
From an employment perspective, many professionals wanted to know where they sit salary wise, both from an individual and company perspective. We were happy to inform them that we offer a salary benchmarking service in order to provide an impartial yet accurate picture of the compensation landscape, allowing businesses and professionals to make informed and effective decisions. We also frequently publish salary guides for key practice areas in Boston Hale, including for finance professionals in the housing sector.
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After such a fantastic experience, we are already planning for next years conference, and hope to see you there!