Its Social Housing Jim, but not as we know it!

I was reading an interesting article this morning about the proposal from Affinity Sutton to regenerate a Social Housing estate in Chelsea, yielding 144 fewer affordable homes and 106 new private apartments, many expected to be worth more than £4m each.
Now I’m not a Housing professional, and this blog isn’t a chance for me to jump on my soapbox in defence of either side, but I feel this was always going to happen at some point, given the nature of the market at the moment.
Affinity Sutton claim that many of the properties are below Decent Homes standard, so the work is necessary. That makes sense. If they left them as they were, complaints would be made about conditions, costs of maintaining them would be crippling etc.
So, it stands to reason that something needs to be done.

However, when the rest of the market is crying out for more affordable housing to be built, not less, it makes the decision to reduce the numbers by a pretty significant 144, more difficult to take. The SHOUT campaign and Homes for Britain campaigns are doing some great work in bringing the issue into the public domain, but this surely flies in the face of this?
On the other side, the lack of support from Government for Social Housing, mean Associations need to generate additional income to further invest in other developments, and the income you can generate from a small number of private apartments in Chelsea is too big to ignore isn’t it?
I wrote in an earlier blog about the move to a more “commercial” Social Housing industry, and the above situation was surely always the path we were heading towards when the Housing market in London became so crazily inflated?
Keith Exford (Chief Exec of Affinity Sutton) wrote in a CIH briefing document about the role of Social renting in the new world, which explains the complexity of the Housing world we have created, and probably clarifies the reasoning behind the decision around the Sutton estate in Chelsea. I also think it shows the contrary world that Housing Associations find themselves in- charitable organisations whose purpose is to provide low-cost or affordable Housing, but are forced to enter the murky world of commercial housing in order to finance the former.
So do we still have a Social Housing Industry? How does a Social Housing tenant feel, when the organisation that is there to provide their home, is evicting them and moving them elsewhere in the country, in order to provide luxury apartments for foreign investors?
Working in recruitment, we were always taught to ensure we have “an elevator pitch”- that is a clear, concise explanation of our service and our USPs, that you could convey to someone on a lift journey. What is Housing’s “elevator pitch”? Have things become too complex for industry professionals to understand, let alone a simple layman? If thats the case, what chance do SHOUT and Homes for Britain stand- even with Betsy the Bus? We need to strip out the complexities, evolved through tinkering by various political parties over decades, and get back to the core aim.

Especially as in the future, lift journeys will be so much quicker……
“Beam me up Scotty!”


Why bother with career paths?

My little boy is nearly 2 and has got to the stage where everything is his. I get home from work and sit down with my tea- nope, its his (despite the fact he had seconds of his an hour earlier).  I pick up the paper-nope its his (he obviously goes straight to the sport pages- I’m so proud).


I pour a glass of wine…and its at this point he realises that Daddy is quite possessive of his wine.

However, my point is that we live in a world where everything is possible/accessible (except for daddys wine!!).  We are used to thousands of TV channels, a constant feed of news through Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin etc, we have access to literally everything at our fingertips.  As a result we have shorter attention spans than ever (you’ve probably already stopped reading…..), we communicate in 140 characters, and flick channels during the breaks because we can.

I have just read a survey by Linkedin about Global and National recruitment trends for 2015 and it made for interesting reading-see the slideshare here.

One finding is something that I have been thinking about for a while.  Retention is a commonly discussed issue for organisations, but realistically, why bother?

Generation Y have already had 3 or more jobs and expect to get towards double figures by the time they retire (see this report here), and according to Linkedin data from August 2014 the average length of time globally with one company is 4 years.  Is this purely down to most companies not looking after their employees, or is it just how we are evolving?

We are bred to be ambitious and strive to achieve, to be open to the next opportunity.  We live in a world driven by competition, by increasing revenues and market share. There is no space for the 10 commandments in business.  “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbours ox or donkey”.  If your organisation has the best ox (or employee if you will), be aware that your neighbour (or competitor) will be doing their utmost to covet them (or “tap them up” in modern speak).  And if your ox is that good, they will offer them the world to tempt them away (believe me, I work in recruitment and am often tasked with being the tapper-upper!). The graphic below shows the mis-matched expectations of what young people want in a job, and what employers think they want.  They are not as bothered about career path, employee development and internal transfer opportunities than we think, but more about being valued and getting on with colleagues and superiors.


So my question is, why do we bother with developing comprehensive staff development programmes, and sell the prospect of working for a particular organisation for the rest of their life in interview?  Why don’t we just accept the new world of the bitesize career path, and work out how to make the most of people whilst you have them??

In fact, I think Social Housing may be in a position to take advantage of this phenomenon better than others.  People join a company for what it can offer them at that point in time.  So in an industry which has a common goal, and where collaboration rather than competition is common place- why not establish strategic alliances with other organisations to create a multi-company career path?  Large organisations, small associations and others inbetween can establish where their strengths lie, and where they are weaker and pull together an appealing development programme which offers variety, challenge and ambition, whilst also helping develop the companies core competencies.

“Come and join us, and experience working with one of the largest Housing Associations in the Country, and once you have learnt what you need to, why not go to this smaller Housing Association, or try this ALMO or this National Charity and develop another sting to your bow.  And once you’ve scratched that itch, why not come back and bring your learning with you?”

It will aid the controlled flow of talent, and enable better information sharing and learning from others.  It also allows organisations to keep contact with that person, so when another suitable role comes up later down the line, they can come back and bring their new learning with them.

I would welcome your thoughts.