Health of the social housing sector 2019

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Now in its twelfth year, RSM’s Health of the Sector survey assesses the impact of the changing economic and regulatory conditions within the social housing sector.

This year, we received a record number of 143 respondents across England, Wales and Scotland.

It is good to see that the trend for improving optimism has continued into 2019, despite the uncertain backdrop of Brexit, welfare reforms and pensions to name but three. Development planning is still high on the agenda with 82 per cent of respondents planning to increase development compared to 79 per cent in 2018, 68 per cent in 2017 and 31 per cent in 2016 - immediately after the rent cuts were announced. Contrastingly, 44 per cent of housing associations in Scotland are expected to increase their development plans highlighting that despite demand, this is not as certain north of the border.

There is increasing anxiety within the social housing sector as to how disruptive an unorganised exit from Europe may be, but the overriding optimism regarding levels of development suggest most are expecting any negative impacts to be short term and manageable in the long run.

Salaries tend to be keeping pace with inflation, more boards are being remunerated in England, but not in Scotland; and welfare reform, whilst on a very slow rollout continues to increase arrears.

The pace of investment in digital communication, often as part of a business transformation project, shows no sign of abating. Significant sums of money are being spent and whilst satisfaction levels are running high, other sectors with similar levels of investment have not ranked their digital progress as highly.

A year on from the split between Homes England and the Regulator of Social Housing (RSH), 46 per cent of respondents see this as having a positive impact to the sector, although interestingly, the majority (52 per cent) see the split as having negligible effect. However, it is good to see that the revised Value for Money Standard regime in England, now in its first full year, is welcome.

Given that most Brexit preparation planning is short term and assuming a safe passage for the social housing sector through the looming uncertainty, buoyed by government support, the underlying optimism stands a good chance of ensuring future success in the sector.

We hope you find this report a useful source of insight. As ever, if you have any queries, please contact Keith Ward who will be delighted to help.