ODGERS INTERIM OPINION

31 January 2013

Suresh Lal – Consultant in our Social Housing Practice - on what’s in-store for the Social Housing sector...

With welfare reform changes high on the agenda and with differing ideas around commercial revenue streams and geographical challenges both hot topics for Registered Providers, the question for many is what are the opportunities and challenges for interims in the Social Housing sector in 2013 and the longer term?

A number of articles in the Social Housing media have given voice to the benefits and drawbacks of the welfare reform challenges that will affect the sector from April of this year. In simplistic terms, the idea that housing benefit is paid directly to tenants as opposed to those with a duty of care to the tenant has advocates on both sides of the fence. What impact this will have on the relationships tenants have with their RP has yet to be seen and no expert – regardless of how much debate takes place - has the answer to that critical question right now.

Some RP’s are well into the restructuring process and are hiring additional staff to cope with the legislative changes coming through later this year. As always, there will inevitably be those few who have not begun - or not fully realised – what the impact will be across their teams. This is where agents of change will be crucial as they will be able add both weight and support to an executive team by helping to take away the pressure of what could be large scale resourcing and financing challenges.

Speaking of the financial impact, rent collection and arrears will also become key across a number of organisations; especially for mid to smaller RPs which are often slower to react due to having fewer resources than some of the heavier staffed outfits. I personally have worked with a number teams where we have brought in financial interims from the commercial sector to breathe new life and ideas into the organisation and I can see this continuing to take place. It doesn’t mean we don’t have commercial minds and ideas already working within the sector, it just means there are not enough of them to go around!

Geographically the impact will - of course - be varied and it will be interesting to note how those teams in the far South West differ from the approach of say those in London or the Midlands. Resident demographics will also dictate how RPs perform and adapt to the changes forced upon them, and this leads to another area of opportunity for interims as those with experience of mergers and acquisitions work, which has been long sought, will be in great demand. This has already been seen by the growing number of larger teams which have acquired smaller, local or community based RPs into a group structure. Interims with this experience have found opportunities and will continue to do so across the country as the social housing landscape changes. 

2013 and beyond looks set to be an interesting time for interims. Clients like and enjoy working with those experts who have been there and done it all before at another RP. It gives them the confidence that the specialist in front of them has understood and engaged with the sector and – more importantly - survived. I have certainly seen a shift in the last few years with commercial candidates being found for more permanent opportunities, although there will still be leaders who enjoy trying to attract the very best, regardless of what their background is. 

If you would like to learn more about Suresh or his work, please do check out his profile.


Categories: Social Housing

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