Top tips to keep up with the rapid change of housing policy


The Guardian has published some tips following a live discussion about staying on top of housing policy which HACT's Deputy CEO took part in.

27 March 2011.

(This article was published on The Guardian Housing Network on 23 March 2012)

Andrew van Doorn is deputy chief executive at HACT

New government, new policy: The pace of policy change and announcements always feels much quicker in the few years following a new government. What becomes part of the challenge is to keep up across the breadth of different changes from different parts of government. There is a lot going on and housing doesn't happen in a housing policy vacuum – other policy areas are impacting on housing providers, their tenants and their communities.

Listen carefully: When we are in a position of rapid policy development there are always risks, both in implementation and in unintended consequences. My experience of working in and with government and with providers and local authorities is that unless we listen carefully to the many different perspectives, we rarely get a real picture about what is likely to happen.

Use the third sector: Housing providers investing time and energy into developing local partnerships with local third sector organisations helps build community resilience and helps us all respond to faster changes in policy.

Look out: The worst approach at times of major policy change and major challenges is to become too inward looking.

False perception: Housing policy doesn't just emerge out of the head of whoever is the housing minister. Housing people are already engaged in thinking about what comes next, I just don't think it is that widely known.

Hilary Burkitt is head of strategic research at Affinity Sutton

Adaptability: Although the changes happening at the moment are both fundamental and fast, as a sector we seem to be used to change – no one seems to expect things to stand still.

Conflicting policy: The new affordable rent model is a fundamentally important part of the change that is taking place at the moment, but welfare reforms have been of equal concern – and particularly trying to assess the consequences of where these two things don't cohere.

Richard Turkington is director of Housing Vision

Monitor the impacts: It's bad enough that many policies are not informed by analysis but the great danger is the lack of adequate and independent monitoring of their impact. Almost everybody has an interest from their own sector perspective. It's like the battle of the press releases.

Ian Chilvers is research and policy manager at Family Mosaic

Investment: In times like these investment in community initiatives is very important. We must seek to influence policy by engaging, and also to try to use any 'flexibility' available to design effective strategies.

Mel West is senior policy officer at Midland Heart

Remodel operations: We have already remodelled our operations to ensure we are well placed to adjust to the changes that the policy shifts and reforms will bring – and most importantly that we can help and support our customers' needs going forward.

Partner up: Specifically on welfare reforms we have plans already in place to support our customers through the changes and we are already speaking to partner agencies, such as credit unions, and will be promoting their services over the coming months.

Help your tenants: We have expanded our teams to offer more financial advice and inclusion services to help our customers maximise their income.

John Hocking is the executive director at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation

Game changers: Part of our job is to recognise the big game changers from the short term headline grabbing initiatives.

With so much new policy: The really interesting part is trying to understand the interactions.

Philippa Jones is an executive director at Bromford Group

Broader picture: This isn't just about current government pace of change – rapid change is a global reality that will continue to ramp up, so the ability to lead and handle change becomes an essential attribute for every role.

Use your advantage: We are, particularly the stronger businesses in the housing sector, in a unique position to use our relative financial strength to take a lead in testing out new approaches, different products and a wider range of services to make a real impact for our customers and the neighbourhoods we work in.

Jim Bennett is head of corporate strategy at the Homes and Communities Agency

Two reasons: I think there are two main reasons for the rapid pace of policy change in housing:

Number 1: This is an area where, while in opposition, ministers developed a lot of new policies that they wanted to see implemented when in government. For example, the approach to housing delivery has been changed radically to reflect the government's commitment to decentralisation.

Number 2: This government sees the housing sector as having a key role to play in economic growth. Many of the new policies for housing, as well as improving the housing choices available to individuals, will help stimulate additional activity in the economy.

Click here to read the article on The Guardian Housing Network webiste