What the NHF conference reveals for social housing

Rising costs, conflicting challenges and increasing interest in ESG – here is our round-up of the chatter at last month's National Housing Finance conference.

It was wonderful to see so many people at the recent NHF Housing Finance Conference in Liverpool. Many of us greeted colleagues and peers we hadn’t seen since before the pandemic and it was a pleasure to see those in-person connections renewed. The conference featured many useful insights, below we share our thoughts on some of the key themes:

Rising costs

Rising inflation and interest rates were a common theme across many of the sessions – there is a great degree of uncertainty over how both will change during the coming year and what this will mean for the financial stability of the sector.

The cost of living crisis brought home issues with insufficiently challenged stress testing systems, this is an issue that has been highlighted over several years by the Regulator of Social Housing. Some associations may be experiencing inflation and interest rates higher than their most severe stress testing scenarios, which raises real concerns about resilience within the sector.

Conflicting priorities

Building safety, decarbonisation and building new homes: Housing associations have a lot to do! With limited resources to carry out these critical projects, conversations turned naturally turned to which of these should be prioritised. Unsurprisingly, there is no ‘one size fits all’ answer. In the Regulator of Social Housing session ‘All in the Balance’, the RSH were firm in saying these decisions are to be made by the Board, as each faces differing priorities and circumstances.  

What is clear is that housing associations have a duty of care to protect residents from rising bills, fuel poverty and health & safety risks. These problems are very real and are happening right now – residents cannot afford for the sector to wait for more certainty.

ESG interest

We were pleased to see an ESG focus in several of the sessions throughout the conference and even more pleased to see how popular they were with the delegates. ESG provides housing associations with real opportunities to create change by driving environmental and social value creation that will ultimately benefit the residents and communities they serve. ESG also creates unique opportunities for organisations to effectively communicate their stories and can even help them attract funding with potentially favourable interest rates. 

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