Reflections from the SHAC 2022
The THFC team were delighted to attend the Social Housing Annual Conference in London on the 1st of December. Following a turbulent year for the housing sector and the UK economy more broadly, Thursday’s conference allowed attendees to network, collaborate, and engage in meaningful conversations on today’s most pertinent housing-related topics, including the ever-changing political landscape, heightened scrutiny over tenant safety, and the fast-developing world of ESG disclosures.
The conference commenced with a panel discussion on ESG disclosures co-led by industry experts, including THFC’s own Arun Poobalasingam, Head of Relationship Management and Business Development. The session highlighted the increasing demand for ESG reporting among the social housing sector, with Arun advocating for the Sustainability Reporting Standard (SRS) as “a powerful tool to help the social housing sector tell its story in a more consistent, comparable, and transparent way.”
Attendees later heard from political journalist and commentator Tim Shipman and economist Hetal Mehta, who provided an overview of the UK’s precarious political and economic backdrop. Amidst alarming projections that house prices could drop by as much as 15% next year, Tim and Mehta crucially emphasised that inflation causes more inequality, not less.
Other key insights came from the 10:50 plenary, in which four social housing chief executives discussed some of the fundamental risks the sector faces as it heads into 2023. The panelists encouraged mutual learning and collaboration among housing associations to help solve the sector’s most pressing issues, including the revamping of best practices surrounding mould and damp following the tragic death of Awaab Ishak. Gavin Richards, Relationship Manager at THFC, expressed optimism about the increased focus on tenant engagement, noting the importance of “narrowing in on damp and mould issues to improve people’s lives.”
The afternoon portion of the conference comprised of several simultaneous sessions taking place, with topics ranging from rent charges, funding, net zero, data insights, cybersecurity, mergers, contractor relationships, risk management, and funders’ role in driving positive change.
The THFC team greatly enjoyed the conference, with no shortage of fresh insights and knowledge gained. The opportunity to network and catch up with fellow social housing colleagues proved to be equally as valuable as the sessions themselves, with Alex Bowden, Relationship Manager at THFC, reflecting: “As much was gathered around the coffee machines as it was in the conference halls.”
Following the conference, Will Stevenson, Deputy Treasurer and Relationship Manager at THFC, said: “In these challenging times that the social housing sector is facing, the Social Housing Annual Conference provided an opportunity to share ideas and best practices through both seminars and networking.”
Max Watson, Credit & Portfolio Risk Analyst at THFC, noted the increasing focus on collaboration between housing associations. He reflected: “Sharing ideas and expertise could help the sector achieve its common goal.”
Bruce Moore, CEO of Housing 21, neatly summarised the social housing sector’s primary mission when he reminded the hundreds of attendees of their shared purpose: “Don’t be driven by the margin, be driven by doing the right thing.”