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Shaping our own future

As the dust settles from the Autumn Statement, we are taking stock of the cards the housing sector has been dealt and how we respond in this new operating environment in 2016 and beyond.

The last month has seen us get a firm foot-hold into a positive settlement with Government, and the direction we decide to go in from here is absolutely our own making. The sector is at the heart of the solution to the housing crisis, and being in control of how we drive our role going forward is critical. Our new partnership with Government enables us to challenge the lack of support for rented homes, whilst exploring how we can deliver more as a sector.

Orbit welcomes the backing from Government to support shared ownership as a mainstream tenure, which is a key campaign Orbit, CIH and others have been championing. Government’s targets of 145,000 shared ownership homes by 2020 will go some way to providing much-needed affordable homes to meet need and aspiration.

This is not without concern for a sector which shares a mission of providing homes and services to the most vulnerable. The lack of government investment for rented housing is an area of utmost concern, but it is for us to find solutions to bridge the gap to provide homes across a range of tenures.

Looking at the wider austerity measures by Government, with national and local government taking a 30% hit in funding cuts, we must take our grant reduction in context. Yes it is a challenge, but we have overcome similar hurdles by adapting, working together, changing our operating models, and coming out stronger and better on the other side.

The resolve of the sector is not to be diminished. It will be telling in how we respond to these challenges, and how we are inspired by this new relationship with Government.

We have a window of opportunity to demonstrate how we can deliver in this new partnership. Our delivery must not just in building homes, but also in improving the social and economic prospects of communities. As long-term sustainable businesses we must harness our efficiency and financial strength to change perceptions of how we operate and deliver more with our resources.

We must think differently. This approach and attitude will allow us to kick on quickly, and do more with less. Showing we are a valued partner, which is leaner and fitter, will balance some views of the sector, whilst allowing us to pursue the agendas that matter to us. Driving efficiencies and getting processes Lean will mean that we can do more of what we believe in, even with limited Government financial backing.

With our efficiency under question, the spotlight is on us to demonstrate how we achieve ‘profit for a purpose’. We do need to be mindful of ‘mission creep’ in the pursuit of our ‘purpose’ by making sure we balance customer needs with providing a quality and efficient service – sometimes good, is good enough.

At Orbit we are utilising Lean reviews of our services to map processes, shorten cycles and improve processes to achieve efficiency, as well as improving the customer experience. This is allowing us to understand our cost drivers and balance these with providing effective and efficient services.

The question has to be asked – are we challenging ourselves enough? We have worked hard to get on a unified path, and to keep this momentum, we need to sense-check and continue to challenge in order to be truly efficient.

By asking ourselves what does ‘best in sector’ look like, we can explore if we’re not achieving it, why not and what we need to do to reach that goal.

Our relationship with Government has demonstrated what we are capable of through harnessing our insight as a sector. Continuing this joined-up approach, bringing resources together where needed and utilising our strengths to continue pushing that now open door will allow us to create the conditions to shape the future we want, not because government tells us to, but because it matters to us.