VIEW: Risk and better decision-making

Headlines have been made recently with a greater government recognition of the role the social housing sector can play in building much needed affordable homes in the UK. Housing associations fall into one of two categories. The first is the smaller community-focused housing associations, whose primary focus is to provide homes and often small-scale developments. The alternative model is the larger, commercially savvy organisation that often evolves from a merger. These providers deliver on their social purpose but it is fair to say they have a greater appetite (and capacity) for risk.

Both of these models have customers at the heart of what they do. They both offer quality developments and good customer service but in different ways, and to different markets. It is fair to say there is no such thing as a ‘typical’ housing association with a ‘typical’ risk profile!

A heightened focus on value for money by both the regulator and central government has had a significant impact on the sector. The introduction of a sector scorecard in 2017 is the sectors’ way in showing that it provides value for money.

As a sector it is important that we balance local need and aspirations with viability. We cannot have a whitewash approach to development, as market factors will influence what is built where (and why). Striking the right balance between development and customers is key to having a commercial head and a social heart.

Five years ago I was a risk manager with insurance responsibilities for a local housing association. Now I am head of the business intelligence team for a merged housing provider with greater ambitions and capacity to deliver to both new and existing customers. #

When we consider our development plan I look at the local risk landscape; what the competition is doing; what tenure will work best; the physical environment; the impact on local customer satisfaction; and ultimately whether a scheme is viable. Against a challenging backdrop, considering risk in the round will help us to make better quality business decisions.

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