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Last Friday, and for a while, all bets were off

Jun 30 2016

Like every other developing housing association Hyde, East Thames and L&Q turned their gaze inward as we examined cash balances, undrawn loan facilities, development commitments and sales exposure.

We ran sensitivities on a drop in house prices, a rise in interest costs, another credit crunch, further reductions in social housing rents to reduce the public sector deficit.

We reviewed our rules for committing to new projects. And we waited to see what would happen next.

But whilst we were unsure about the world around us we remained sure about one thing - our commitment was as strong as ever.

To drive efficiency, realising £50 million gains over the next two years.

To build more homes. We will need to keep a close eye on the market and live within our means but we are financially strong and people need somewhere to live.

To the the quality of our service and homes.

To being a great place to work.

And to our social purpose.

I believe that for all housing associations this is our moment.

As others exercise greater caution we can step forward, as we did in the 1992 recession, as we did in the 2007 recession.

Appetite for investment in housing associations remains strong. Our model is at least part counter-cyclical. As long-term investors we can buy when others de-risk and sell. And every penny of our profit is reinvested in affordable housing.

This is an opportunity for us to develop a new strategic partnership with government.

We can build more homes but our investment must be across a range of tenures. We like home ownership, but if we adopt a housebuilder model we will do less not more.

Instead, we should commit to overall housing numbers with flexibility to adapt between tenures as the market changes.

And rather than funding home ownership, government should fund new supply. In return we can offer pathways to ownership for all of our customers and when they exercise this new right, government can take their share in any profit we generate.

Over the last year housing associations have worked hard to develop a stronger relationship with government. We have listened, adapted and created a bond of trust. We should never place at risk our social housing assets. But now we should work together and deliver one million new homes.

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