Radical thinking is needed to shape a new entrepreneurial and thriving rental housing sector, according to a new report published today.
The research found the current economic crisis is “crushing” the housing hopes of many poorer and younger households and holding back community renewal, while the drive for 21st century homes is hampered by 20th century housing thinking.
The new report – led by Professor Duncan Maclennan and Sharon Chisholm for the Centre for Housing Research at the University of St Andrews – calls for a more enterprising and innovative approach in housing alongside a continuing focus on supporting communities and help to improve people’s lives.
Maclennan said: “Not-for-profit providers need to become more entrepreneurial in style but no less focused on their local communities and on the effective delivery of social housing. Their roles are still critical to social inclusion, more dynamic neighbourhoods and fairer starts for low income households.”
The researchers, who came from the UK, Canada, Australia and Norway, looked at how housing needs are being shifted by demographic and economic change while the resources and roles of governments are shrinking.
Maclennan said: “Times have changed – debt finance and public money are scarce. In all of the countries involved in the research not-for-profit housing providers have been experiencing cuts to programmes. “In Canada these cuts started in the mid-nineties and in Australia, Norway, Scotland and England resources are now contracting in post-2010 austerity measures. There is wider agreement that these cuts are real, substantial and prolonged. Not-for-profits cannot now rely on the support levels of the past and new funding streams and approaches are needed.
“In all countries, unemployment has risen, incomes of poorer households have stalled and growing household numbers have added to housing demands. Welfare payments to support low income renters are now also under scrutiny in a number of countries.
“New demands for housing and related services are emerging that markets are failing to meet effectively. Home-ownership rates for under-35s are falling almost everywhere and these young households will enter home ownership much later. They need other options both to live and build savings now. We also have older people who are living longer and we have to recast the ways we meet the changing housing, care and health needs of the oldest households.” Professor Maclennan said this means a radical rethink is needed on the role for providers of non-profit housing.
The research also points to the need for governments to create clear and innovative policies to support the right conditions for not-for-profit housing providers to attract increased private funding. And it says the changing times will mean more housing providers are likely to form groups to capture scale economies.
The study, ‘New Times, New Business: Housing Provision in Times of Austerity’, was launched at Glasgow Housing Association’s (GHA) training academy. GHA, which is part of the Wheatley Housing Group, was one of six partners in the research project.