What do we mean when we talk about affordability? The value of social housing providers in Wales
This is the third blog post in a series being brought to you by Housing Europe in partnership with some of our member organisations. As announced in the first blog in this series, Housing Europe is partnering with the UNECE to assess housing affordability and highlight best practice as part of a project we are calling #Housing2030. This blog will look at how our Welsh member, Community Housing Cymru (CHC), demonstrates its value as a provider of more than just housing.
For the past 11 years, CHC has published an annual report, looking at the socioeconomic impact of its members. This covers a number of areas, including the investment in regeneration, the jobs they create and the economic impact, including how much of their investment stays in the local economy. This has been incredibly valuable to CHC in terms of communicating the role and the value of social housing in Wales.
However, CHC is now going back to the drawing board, so the speak, challenging itself to communicate the impact of social housing in a new way. Previous attempts at this have proved to be somewhat difficult, as the goal was usually to boil everything down into some neat and tidy numbers. However, given the broad spectrum of local realities in Wales, this always ran the risk of producing results that some members couldn’t identify with.
In assessing how to do things differently, it became clear that communicating the ‘stories’ of the impact social housing providers in Wales have had would be as valuable as the more ‘traditional’ quantitative methods of value measurement. This means building the picture of social housing value from the bottom up and engaging with stakeholders at a local level to take on board their feedback and build the social value outputs around that. This will mean that going forward, CHC reports will provide more detail and a greater breakdown of their value right across Wales and not just at a national level.
In addition to thinking how it can do better by itself, CHC is also looking at how it can better engage with third-parties to communicate its value or to improve its own processes. This has included supporting social housing charity HACT, with reviewing their digital tools for value assessment.
CHC members also cooperate with the Welsh Government and their attempts to assess the value to society of various public facing organisations. This includes the use of the ‘Community Benefits Measurement Tool’, which aims to capture how the sector maximises socioeconomic impact in procurement.Another interesting initiative in Wales is the Future Generations Commissioner, who is tasked with getting groups like CHC to think about the long-term in areas like culture, sustainability and economic goals.
Overall then, what the CHC experience tells us is that the value and contribution of social housing providers is sometimes difficult to express in numbers. Despite the issues this may pose in terms of communicating with policymakers, by being proactive and taking on board the perspectives of a wide range of experts and local groups, social housing providers can find innovative ways of highlighting the valuable role they play in society.