RLB’s Richard Quarry, Jeremy Spill, James Miller, Zoe Rowan Tim Sims, and Stuart Wands, of the Residential team, attended CIH Housing 2022 conference – here are our collective thoughts.
A year is a long time in housing. Scratch that. Six months is a long time in housing with the speed things are moving. This year’s CIH conference was a timely opportunity to take stock, and look at the progress being made as well as the up-and-coming challenges. This was the first CIH conference since the pandemic to really be back to full throttle, with the housing industry community at its very best, lots of insightful conversations and talks at the formal event and at the surrounding fringe events. Manchester was definitely buzzing with the great and the good of our industry and it was fantastic to be part of that.
As a group at RLB, we met as we always do after a major conference to reflect on our key take-outs. As well as thinking about the issues that were occupying the thoughts of attendees, we also discussed what we thought would be on next year’s agenda. There are some weighty issues the industry is facing set against a volatile backdrop that shows no sign of stabilising. In fact, in less than a week after delivering the keynote speech, we not only have a new housing minister, but a new housing secretary of state and a new prime minister is not far away.
There was a vast range of topics discussed over the three days, but we’ve picked a few which we think will be back on next year’s agenda and hopefully, we’ll be discussing the progress that’s been made.
Legislation, legislation, legislation.
With the first part of the Building Safety Act 2022 coming into force as the conference kicked off, it was no surprise that this was top of the list with those we spoke with from funders to housing associations. Getting to grips with and embedding the right practices and processes is absolutely essential and is clearly a concern. We all know there is a lot more to come over the next 12 to 18 months so putting the preparation in place now and, critically, getting the right resource to managing ongoing legislation as it rolls out is an issue that those across the industry are grappling with.
Alongside this sits the latest information on Future Homes Standards for low energy and carbon requirements that come into effect in 2025 to ensure all new homes are future-proofed and ‘carbon-ready’. Change is happening at pace and with the latest legislation released in June and more to come, there is a lot to absorb. With over half the housing stock for 2050 already built, the challenge will be retrofitting to meet changing standards. We all know the complexity and sensitivities around working in people’s homes and with one of the oldest and most inefficient housing stocks in Europe, there is a lot to tackle here.
With the Minimum Energy Efficiency Bill also currently making its way through parliament to bring EPC ratings to at least C for both owned (by 2035) and rented properties (by 2025) the conversations we were having were all around preparing and putting the right resource in to be ahead of the game. Be this through upskilling in-house teams or working with experts to bolster proficiency.
None of this is quick fix stuff, it needs to be properly planned in and thought through. We are working with clients looking not only at putting roadmaps in place to help prepare for the pipeline of legislation, for example around fire safety but also driving innovation around sustainable solutions to meet carbon zero targets.
The rising cost of living
From fuel poverty to rising food bills, the price of living is a huge ongoing challenge, particularly for the social housing sector and was another hot discussion topic. In a recent survey by RESAM in conjunction with Social Housing magazine over a quarter of those asked stated living costs as the most significant challenge over the next five years.
As well as the huge impact on the tenants themselves, the uncertainty plays through into the impact on future rent increases and long-term business planning. With the ongoing need to build affordable homes, the conversations we are having are all around value modelling and how to balance the demands required to build new carbon zero, quality, safe homes as well as retrofitting existing housing stock to meet new standards when resources are under pressure.
From every discussion we had, there was a real drive to put quality first. This was set alongside recognising the need to address and build back trust in the sector, particularly around building safety. This is something that the whole industry needs to play their part to deliver, and it is something we are passionate about at RLB and believe we can really support.
From fire safety to delivering sustainable solutions to adopting MMC, keeping quality front and centre for the housing sector will be an ongoing priority. We mustn’t wait for upcoming legislation to arrive for change to happen, we need to be on the front foot and driving innovation. It will only be by delivering against these targets that we will really shift the attitude around trust.
We all know there are big challenges facing the sector, but the appetite to tackle the issues and make a difference in the housing community is palpable. If 2022’s conference was about laying out the challenges, hopefully when we meet in 2023, we’ll be benchmarking real progress.