Today is 100 days since I joined Sovereign, a milestone that has become something of a yardstick for taking on a new job. It certainly feels like a good time to reflect on what has been an unusually busy three months or so for me, and the sector.
First of all, the much-anticipated Social Housing Green Paper was published in August. Taken with the Prime Minister’s speech at the National Housing Summit last week, there has been a significant shift in the way the government thinks and talks about our sector.
It recognises the vital role that we play, not only in providing a safe roof over people’s heads, but in building communities over the longer term. And, for the first time in a long time, residents were central to government’s thinking, and communities were back in focus.
It’d be easy to be cynical about why the government has taken a more supportive view of our work, and sceptical about whether the warm words will really amount to a row of beans, but I believe that’s missing the point.
The language has changed, the tone has changed, and the landscape has changed. For many years housing associations have been unloved by both the right and the left in politics. This feels different, and I think we should see it as a seminal moment for the sector and respond to the challenge in that way.
Of course, we must continue to have a healthy debate with government about the terms of the Green Paper, about the challenge of welfare reform for our residents, and we shouldn’t let up in demanding increased investment in truly affordable homes.
But let’s take on the challenge set by the PM to put ourselves front and centre of new housing supply, to provide great customer service, and to take the lead in building strong and vibrant communities.
These are certainly challenges Sovereign is taking head on.
I recently saw first-hand the difference we’re making at the land-led, 210-home and multi-award winning Victory Oak development near Ringwood, Dorset. Working in partnership with Homes England and Drew Smith, Sovereign is the lead developer. We have control of the site, including the pace of delivery, and will be a model for our enhanced development ambitions going forward.
Over in Bristol I visited Ashley Court where a really focused effort has led to a new way of thinking about old problems, in this case tackling anti-social behaviour, to the benefit of our residents and the neighbourhood.
In my first 100 days I’ve meet some fantastic, dedicated people at Sovereign, who are doing a great job. It’s obvious that Sovereign is fantastically well placed to move up another gear and to deliver more. It has never lost sight of its social purpose, its core mission. In the weeks and months ahead, we need to channel our strong resources and clear determination into a new and exciting ambition for the next stage of the journey for housing in the UK.