May you have a strong foundation 

In 2016 I celebrate 40 years of working in housing.During that time I have witnessed many changes and I have worked under a myriad of different regulatory regimes.
I have always accepted that, because our work receives funding from the public purse, regulation is necessary.
In all of my career I do not believe that regulation has been either too onerous or too restricting.
That is because I have always thought that a well-led organisation should have nothing to fear from a regulator.
It might be unfashionable to say so, but I also think that external pressure from regulators has had a positive effect upon the housing sector.
In my early career it was pressure from the Commission for Racial Equality and the Housing Corporation which helped to remove discriminatory practices and change the sector’s approach to equality and diversity.
More recently the Housing Corporation, under its guise as the Tenant Services Authority, highlighted the need to put tenants at the heart of our work with a focus that had been sadly lacking in some housing associations.
The involvement of the Audit Commission also improved service standards in many organisations by concentrating minds on an area that had often been ignored.
Now we have a government that is working with our trade body and others to remove regulation; partly to set us free to develop more homes, and partly in a desperate bid to release us from the clutches of the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
It is too early to say if either objective will be achieved. But what is clear is that, once again, policy is being made ‘on the hoof’.
Such policy is often poorly developed and is more likely to fail, or at least produce unintended consequences.
Others have commented on the confusion and problems that these hasty proposals will create and on the chasm that is developing between the treatment of council tenants and housing association tenants.
The new freedoms also place an increased responsibility on non-executives and boards of housing associations.
In other sectors and in other countries the consequences of deregulation have been increased risks and failures, and a move from original values and purpose.
There is a danger that this will happen to housing associations in England, unless boards become more vigilant in their role.
Never has the board’s role in protecting the social values and purpose been more important.
Deregulation will tempt boards into many other areas of work.
More importantly it will give them the opportunity to show that individually and collectively we are still truly committed to providing homes to people on low incomes and in the greatest housing need.
As the housing world changes our one constant should be that, in a country where poor people still go hungry and are in need of a decent accommodation, we will be there to provide a home and security and a foundation for a better life.
In a housing world that that is changing faster than at any time in my career, the challenges on board members have suddenly become greater.
I hope you will all rise to that challenge.


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