NHC’s new Board members


The NHC were delighted to welcome five new Directors to our Board this autumn, and to have welcomed Barbara Spicer CBE as a co-opted Director in the summer.

The Board meets on a quarterly basis to manage and to set the strategic direction of the organisation. It ensures that policies and procedures are in place to meet core values and objectives and protect the organisational assets. Membership of the Board comprises six to twelve Directors including the Chair and one Vice Chair and up to three Co-Opted Directors, each of whom may sit for a maximum term of six years.

New Directors are appointed from Full member organisations, nominations are reviewed against a skills matrix of existing Directors to ensure that they are suitable to fill any vacancies as well as fully reflecting the sectoral geographical diversity of our membership, and across equality measures.

The NHC always looks for a diverse set of skills among the Directors to ensure a high level of experience in helping to lead the organisation forward as dynamic, agile and robust for the future. The organisation has recently welcomed six Board members with a wealth of experience in finance, housing management, governance, transformation, IT, growth and much more.


Yvonne Castle, Chief Executive, Johnnie Johnson Housing

Yvonne has significant executive experience working in social housing, the private, charity and local authority sectors for many years.

An accountant by profession, her trained ‘lean’ systems thinking and project manager experience sits alongside her love of all things ‘people’ – coaching and mentoring, delivering leadership and management development programmes, motivating and encouraging others to succeed.

Yvonne joined Johnnie Johnson Housing in July 2015 to lead the organisation’s change programme, becoming Chief Executive in 2017. She is also a Board and Audit and Risk Committee Member of a specialist provider of accommodation across Bradford, Calderdale and North Yorkshire.


Simon Costigan, Chief Officer Property and Contracts, Leeds City Council

Simon has worked for Leeds City Council since leaving school and has developed a wealth of knowledge and experience during his 38-year career in housing. Over his extensive career in housing he has been involved in the development of two Estate Management Boards, three individual housing PFI schemes, and recently spent 10 years working for one of the Leeds ALMO’s where he undertook the role of Chief Executive.

Since moving back into the Council five years ago Simon took up his current role and currently manages the City’s Capital Programme, manages the responsive repairs service to the City’s social housing stock of over 55,000 properties and also manages the Internal Service Provider with an annual turnover of £65m.

Simon’s passion is working with communities to improve service outcomes and to make a real difference to the quality of life for residents living in local communities across the City.


Liz Haworth, Group Director, Torus

Liz has worked as a senior leader within the housing sector for 16 years and currently leads on service delivery and transformation for Torus, a large North West housing provider based in Warrington and St Helens. Her previous experience is with local government and the financial services sector.

Liz’s specialisms include: housing management, social investment, neighbourhood management, services for older people and supported housing, development of digital, data and IT strategies, transformation and delivery of efficiency targets, merger and integration.

She is particularly passionate about creating an organisation that is fit for the future, both in the way that it provides services to tenants, and the way it creates a working environment that is engaging and energising for employees.

Liz has served on a supported housing provider board and more recently as a Board Member of St Helens Chamber.


Ian Wardle, Chief Executive, Thirteen Group


Ian has provided leadership and direction for a range of complex services, projects and initiatives including working for two local authorities, a large multi-national PLC housebuilder, an arms-length public-private regeneration agency and currently he leads North East based housing association Thirteen Group.

Ian started his career in the North East as a graduate trainee at George Wimpey (now Taylor Wimpey) in Middlesbrough, moving onto the Sunniside Partnership in Sunderland and Director of Regeneration at Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council.

In April 2018 he took over as the secretary for Homes for the North which is an alliance of almost 20 large housing associations who want to deliver more homes across the North of England.

He cares passionately about the quality of life housing can provide. The delivery of high-quality homes and services has been the foundation of his working life and a key feature throughout his career over the last 20 years.


Lee Sugden, Chief Executive, Salix Homes

A qualified accountant, Lee has worked in housing for over 25 years in a variety of senior roles developing new and innovative solutions to housing problems. He is currently the Chief Executive of North West based housing provider Salix Homes after joining in 2014 to lead the organisation following the transfer of homes from Salford City Council, shaping the business to ensure it plays a full role in the transformation of the City of Salford.

He has played a Non-Executive role for a variety of other organisations including housing providers, local authorities and a further education college.


Barbara Spicer CBE, Chief Executive, Plus Dane

Barbara Spicer CBE is Chief Executive of Plus Dane – a housing association working across Merseyside and Cheshire with 13,500 homes.

Barbara worked for 20 years in local government, eight years of which were spent as Chief Executive of Salford City Council where she led key developments in the city, including the bid to relocate the BBC to Salford Quays at MediaCity UK, creating a development of international significance.

Passionate about the skills agenda, Barbara spent time in Westminster as interim Chief Executive of the Skills Funding Agency. She currently holds the position of Mayoral Advisor for Social Housing Growth at the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority and sits on the UK Capital of Culture Panel.

Her strong belief is that there are two things that are vitally important to the wellbeing of any individual: a real job with prospects and a decent home; Barbara has spent the vast majority of her career focused on trying to deliver those things for, and with, people who sometimes find it hard to deliver them for themselves, and using those two levers successfully to create sustainable communities.

Tracy Harrison speaking at EvoNorth

Our Deputy Chief Executive Tracy Harrison will be speaking at EvoNorth.

EvoNorth, taking place on 27-28 Feb 2019 is a two day conference, exhibition and networking dinner dedicated to championing the Northern Powerhouse.

Over the next four years, the Northern Powerhouse will spend £150bn on healthcare, £45bn on schools and education, £70bn on transport and connectivity and £1.4bn on housing and infrastructure, all alongside investments in other areas including science, business and innovation.

EvoNorth is encouraging collaboration by uniting leaders shaping the Northern Powerhouse to create a solid blueprint for future generations to come.

Partake in lively and engaging Q&As, dynamic round table discussions, thought-provoking and inspiring workshops and exhibitions, participate in powerful leader debates and have your voice heard.

Discussing topics from across these key focuses;

  • Transport and Connectivity
  • Business, Innovation and Investment
  • Science and Technology
  • Housing and Infrastructure
  • Education, Skills and Employment
  • Health, Social Care and Wellbeing

Fuel the conversation: visit the website here.

Consultations following Budget 2018

On the day of Budget 2018, government launched a number of consultations with the sector to support its target for housing supply to reach 300,000 a year.

If you are responding to any of the consultations, it would be helpful if you could provide us with a copy of your consultation response.


Changes to planning policy and guidance including the standard method for assessing local housing need

The publication of new household projections by the Office for National Statistics has led to a significant reduction in the overall numbers generated by the standard method for assessing local housing need.  This consultation sets out proposals to update planning practice guidance on housing need assessment to be consistent with increasing housing supply.

This consultation also proposes clarifications of national planning policy on: housing land supply; the definition of deliverable; and appropriate assessment.

The consultation document is available here and is open until 7th December 2018.


Planning reform: supporting the high street and increasing the delivery of new homes

Building on existing planning reforms, the government is consulting on new and amended permitted development rights and changes to use classes, including to support the regeneration of the high street and to extend existing buildings upwards to create new homes.



  • Do you think there is a role for permitted development rights to provide homes by extending properties upwards?
  • Do you think there should be a new permitted development right to allow hot food takeaways to change to residential use?

Let us know how you intend to respond to these questions.  Please forward your comments to Karen.brown@northern-consortium.org.uk

The consultation document is available here and is open until 14th January 2019


Private shared homeownership: call for proposals

The government is seeking proposals to provide new routes into affordable home ownership.  This call for proposals covers three categories:

 private shared ownership which would be primarily privately funded

  • other private affordable homeownership products which should be primarily privately funded
  • other innovative routes into homeownership which do not require government investment but may require the removal of regulatory or other barriers

The consultation document is available here and is open until 1st February 2019

If you have any queries on any of these documents please get in touch with Karen.brown@northern-consortium.org.uk



Budget 2018 – a look behind the headlines

Tracy Harrison, Deputy Chief Executive, Northern Housing Consortium

Last month’s Budget delivered some welcome certainties and a shift in sentiment from government towards working with the social housing sector as part of the solution. The one clear certainty was the commitment to the national supply target of 300,000 new builds a year, this was despite the latest ONS household projections which threatened to derail house-building targets. Less certain was any commitment to public sector investment with the tantalising possibility of austerity ‘coming to an end’.

The Budget confirmed that the Housing Revenue Account cap was to be abolished on 29 October

The abolition of the Housing Revenue Account cap was the signal that councils can get back into the house-building business. For the first time in many years, councils will be able to prepare longer-term HRA business plans.  Also, longer term funding for housing associations gives providers certainty in their business planning. In the previous few years the absence of a rent settlement and the LHA cap had contributed towards preventing this longer-term planning.

This marks a new and welcome partnership between government and the social housing sector to build social housing.

But it also sets a challenge to councils to bring forward home-building plans. Councils may have lost dedicated housing functions and have fewer specialist staff with housing services being absorbed into place-based directorates. For many, skills and capacity shortage could be a principal barrier to growth in direct local authority delivery.

Investment to deliver more homes, including an extra £500m for the Housing Infrastructure Fund

Everyone can agree that it is imperative that more homes are built in the right places. It was therefore welcome that the Budget announced an extra £500m to pay for housing infrastructure. But behind the headlines, is the detail that 80% of funding across all Government schemes for house building will be going to areas of “high affordability.” This will not deliver the vision of a housing market that works for everyone.

Support for Homeownership

The Budget confirmed a new Help to Buy Equity Loan Scheme and extended Stamp Duty Land Tax relief to all qualifying shared ownership properties (with a launch of a Call for Evidence on Private Shared Ownership).  It also launched a consultation on new permitted development rights to allow upwards extensions above commercial premises and to allow commercial buildings to be demolished and replaced with homes (Planning reform: supporting the high street and increasing the delivery of new homes).

There is a concern that policies continue to underline the prevailing view that social housing is a stepping stone to home ownership, rather than recognising that it is the right choice for some, and this doesn’t help with stigmatising social housing tenants.

There are estates in the North which almost certainly meet the definition of affordable but fall so far below modern standards there is, not just a stigmatising of residents, but a loss of hope.  Residents either put up with this, or move to the far less stable private rented sector.  There they find tenancies that could be less stable and quality which is in many cases below decent standards with 354,000 private rented sector properties being unfit in the North – see The Hidden costs of Poor Quality Housing in the North.

A combination of new council house building and investment in quality of existing stock will, over time, create capacity to deliver as much as 20-30,000 social rented homes a year. Sir Oliver Letwin’s review of build out rates (published on the day of Budget) has also confirmed that delivering a wider range of tenures on sites improves the rate at which new homes are built – another reason to justify increased public investment on social rented housing.

Guest Blog – Cloud – it isn’t how big it is, it’s what you do with it that counts

Our lives today are dominated by technology, from smartphones, to social networks, to the IoT, all of which we are now using daily in our places of work – and housing providers are no exception to this trend. As a result, hardly a day goes by without a mention of the need to transform digitally and integrate these technologies. This drive towards digital transformation has been a key factor in the increase in cloud adoption as housing providers look to be more efficient and enable a better experience for both workers, and service users.

However, while initially, cloud computing seemed a simple solution for organisations, it has gradually become more of ‘a complex beast’ that is proving hard to tame. This complexity is only going to increase, with Gartner predicting that more than $1.3tn in IT spending will be directly or indirectly affected by the shift to cloud by 2022. So, despite widespread adoption of cloud, housing providers must ensure investments in cloud are optimised by ensuring they are closely managing their IT infrastructure.

Cloud for clouds sake

The benefit of cloud is that it allows housing providers the ability to innovate more quickly, while also providing a more effective work platform that ultimately saves money. Cloud offers an infrastructure that empowers organisations to have greater agility through the speed at which IT resources can be provisioned. However, it can be a tricky path due to the number of processes that must be followed for successful cloud adoption.

Thomas Trappler, director of software licensing at the University of California, LA, points out that licensing fees are one area that can become increasingly complicated if organisations are unaware of the compliance requirements of cloud. Licensing conditions change depending whether software is on premise or in cloud, and organisations are often aren’t aware of the rules. This means housing providers may find themselves non-compliant without realising there is an issue – highlighting that simply adopting cloud without a plan or understanding of its impact, becomes an exercise in having cloud for clouds sake.

To combat this issue, when taking on the cloud housing providers need to firstly build a robust roadmap that covers every component from implementation to use to ongoing management.  This means ensuring that the IT department retains real-time visibility into cloud services running across the organisation. Secondly, this process cannot end after adoption, providers must continue managing and monitoring their cloud environment post-adoption to avoid exceeding consumption estimates and so spending more on unbudgeted cloud resource.

COMPAREX UK’s managed cloud services have been helping housing providers by pinpointing exactly where help is needed when it comes to cloud – from choosing the most appropriate vendor to ensuring the right cloud licenses are in place. You can find out more here.

Guest Blog – Growing older is a gift

Yvonne Castle, new NHC Board member and Chief Executive of Johnnie Johnson Housing

When we talk about our pending crisis of an increasing population in the UK due to ageing we think about: pressure on the NHS; woeful Residential Care (at Southern Cross, winterbourne view and more recently Allied Healthcare), the scale of dementia issues, unmet need and declining real terms funding, the impact of the national living wage, we think about our families and we think about us!

It’s true – where would we want to live when we’re in our 80’s?  What will we be doing?  Will we be well?  Or will we be deteriorating? How will technology help?


Why don’t we look positively at ageing?  That’s where we need to start.  We need a culture that embraces ageing and the opportunity that it provides.

Apparently, we need less sleep as we get older and so that’s more time to enjoy life! We see the world through ‘rose coloured glasses’ as brains are wired to remember the good times. As we age, we become more optimistic – we ‘zone in’ on happy faces and we can build more social connections.

There is lots of support out there – ‘social prescribing’, men in sheds, relaxation classes to manage stress, apps like ‘Headspace’ and ‘Calm’ can help us to self-manage focus and de-stress too! We are more self-aware and look to creating our legacy by helping others and passing on our wisdom and experience, if you’ve grandchildren – you can enjoy them as if they were your own, but without the frustration… and you have more free time!

So, this is a different way of looking at it for ourselves, for our families, and most importantly for those people that rely on us day-in-day-out to keep them housed, to keep them safe and healthy.

There is some fantastic work out there that we all can do, get involved in, to aspire to, to build and to provide. Here’s a few small examples:

  • New Independent Living Homes and new Care Homes are modern, bright, airy. They encourage small huddles so that people can engage in conversation and activities as they choose. They have playgrounds – both for adults and for children. Local amenities help encourage activity and contact with communities. And communities come in to keep you in touch.
  • Modern, digital telecare equipment means you’re free to go wherever you choose, in the knowledge that help is just a call away and GPS means that a support team knows exactly where you are, it’s also becoming more aspirational and less medical.
  • Telehealth sensors and monitors tell you how you’re doing on an hourly and daily basis helping you to make some choices about your life habits – being proactive so you can avoid that trip to hospital.
  • It is really easy for remote family members to keep in touch and get reassurance that all is ok with you.
  • “Invisible Adaptations” can be fitted when you’re young and used as required – you wouldn’t know that these could help you in and outside of your home – no longer do they scream out “I’m vulnerable and need help”!
  • In an era of digital when we need help, we only need to make one call; our records are shared, and you don’t have to tell your story twice – everyone knows what you need – QUICKLY!
  • Alexa’s a great friend – she’ll tell you about the weather, set you reminders, play your favourite music, order your shopping, book all the appointments you need and help you to learn a new language.

So, what are we waiting for? Growing older is a gift!

As a business we need to make sure that we treat everyone as an individual, with different needs at different times.  No one person responds the same. So, let’s get this culture right in our organisations.  Let’s manage the risks of all the negatives and let’s turn ageing into a positive experience. We’re building new homes, we’re providing services, we’re creating communities – so let’s just check.  Will it work for YOU in the future?”

NHC Social Housing Green Paper Consultation Response

The Green Paper, ‘a new deal for social housing’ sets out some significant opportunities and challenges which go to the heart of the purpose of social housing.

During the open consultation period the NHC travelled to all three regions in the North to speak to its members in detail about the proposals and what this means for the future of the social housing sector and what this means for Northern providers.

The consultation is now closed and the NHC response is here. This is very much an ongoing piece of work. The Government will respond to the consultation responses in the new year and we will continue the dialogue with our members as the outcome of this national debate on social housing continues.

Where is the investment in Northern housing?

Monday’s Budget brought the expectation of a nationwide boost to house-building.  With an announcement of an extra £500m funding to pay for the support structure that allows the building of new homes, it was a welcome announcement to deliver a boost to supply.

Just a few days later it is alarming news that Northern authorities will only be able to access a maximum of 20% of this new funding.  80% of all funding across all Government schemes for house building will be going to areas of “high affordability.”   This will exclude funding support for most of the North East, North West and Yorkshire and Humber.

Jo Boaden, Chief Executive of the NHC said “It seems that funding to meet house-building ambitions is a ‘geographic’ issue, not a nationwide issue, with the vast proportion of the funding going to the South”.

Homes England’s 5 year strategic plan launched today announces that it will “play a major role in making the housing market work for everyone.”  The geographical targeting of funding to the South across 5 housing programmes draws stark attention to the North / South divide.

There are areas of the North facing severe constraints with additional targeted investment needed to support major development programmes.   The national focus on a certain definition of affordability prevents different housing markets from tackling unique challenges.

National policies must be flexible to target specific local issues – market access in unaffordable markets and housing quality and renewal in more affordable ones – this will ensure that funding is directed where it is most needed, improving value for money and making more of a dent in the housing crisis.

The housing deficit isn’t just in new supply; it is also to be seen in the quality and age of the existing housing stock, with large quantities of pre-war terraced housing.   Investment to bring brownfield land to market is perhaps the single most important immediate measure that could be taken to accelerate the public sector delivery of new homes in the North.

Jo Boaden said “It is in areas where private sector investment has been weakest where there has been far less public infrastructure investment.  Regional inequality in public infrastructure investment could mean that it becomes more challenging to attract other investment in housing.

“Government must ensure the investment plan can meet the scale of investment needs in all parts of the country, not just in areas of highest affordability pressure.”