7 December 2021

Successful housing associations have a golden thread running through them. Coherent, effective governance, diversity of thought and challenge, a genuine culture of resident engagement and a clearly defined strategy all being features of an approach that improves outcomes and delivers on our social mission.

It sounds obvious, right? Maybe.

But these things don’t just happen. In fact, getting the stars to align on each of these themes can sometimes prove unsurmountable. Often, easier said than done.

The operating environment for housing associations remains challenging. Be it the ongoing effects of rent reduction, investment requirements in existing homes to improve energy efficiency or enhance building safety, to supporting customers through the economic consequences of a global pandemic: there remains many calls on limited resources.

The increasing complexity of these challenges show no sign of abating and leads to an even greater requirement to focus on our core mission. This necessitates a consistent application strategy and a decision making environment which is clear in its purpose and facilitates innovation and appropriate risk taking.

It is in this context that board members of housing associations play a critical role. And in a world when every priority is equal, this is not an enviable task. But it is also not an intractable one either.

Across the sector, boards are collaborating with their executive teams to understand these issues, to remove the binary discourse from decisions and to come up with the creative solutions that grow capacity so that it isn’t a simply a choice of building new homes or investment in existing stock, between net-zero carbon measures or investment in building safety.

The forthcoming Board Member Academy will explore these issues further: interrogating best practice, understanding thematic concerns, and working together to understand how good governance enables the causes of these issues to be tackled head on, devising solutions which ultimately benefit residents.

Housing associations must continue to cast the net far and wide to attract the widest possible array of diversity and talent to their boards.

What issues will the sector still be talking about in five years’ time? Likely net zero-carbon, alleviating fuel poverty, an ageing and more diverse population to care for, sector financial sustainability, and the ongoing advancement of technology to name a few, all while continuing to put resident voice at its heart.

For newer board members there is all to play for and who wouldn’t wish to be part of determining the future in such an impactful and important way.

The Board Member Academy will be held as a virtual event on Wednesday 26 January. Find out more and book your places online.

The academy is part of the annual Board Excellence in Housing Conference which takes place on 3-4 February with options to attend in Manchester and virtually.

Sean Anstee

Sean Anstee is Group Chair at Trafford Housing

Sean Anstee is Executive Director at Municipal Partners, working with local authorities to curate real estate propositions that solve long-term economic and social policy challenges. Sean was previously the Chief Executive of Telcom Infrastructure, part of Telcom Group, an innovative technology company, growing in Manchester. He was Leader of Trafford Council between 2014-18 and Vice Chairman of the Greater Manchester Combined Authority, with portfolio responsibility for Skills, Employment and a Digital City Region. He is a board member of Trafford Housing Trust and is a keen marathon runner.

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