A privilege to be NHC Chair

Geraldine Howley, former chair of the Northern Housing Consortium

Geraldine Howley was chair of the Northern Housing Consortium (NHC) for six years between 2008 and 2014 and was part of the Commission for Housing in the North.

Geraldine has over 30 years’ experience of working in housing and was Chief Executive of Incommunities for 18 years. She is currently a Director of the GEM programme which offers a wide range of jobs and intensive learning experiences in the housing sector across the country. 

 

Can you share some highlights from your time as chair of Northern Housing Consortium?

It was an absolute privilege to be chair of the Northern housing Consortium and to work with likeminded people who have the will, enthusiasm and energy to make a difference in the north.

One of the highlights during my time with the organisation was our influencing role and the way we were able to develop relationships with politicians locally, regionally and nationally.

We visited Downing Street to make a case for rebalancing funding for housing in the north, collaborating with organisations like the CBI to meet MPs together and the events we held, like our conferences and round tables, gave us a great platform to talk directly to senior politicians.

I think that success was partly due to the fact that NHC is seen as a welcoming and fair organisation that wants to listen, learn and engage.

The introduction of procurement frameworks which, over the years, have also been extremely beneficial providing members with great value and helping them drive efficiency across the north by providing access to a wide range of quality services and suppliers. All of this has meant housing organisations can be more efficient and make savings which ultimately benefit tenants.

At the end of 2016, after 18 months of consultation and research, the NHC published the report of the Commission for Housing in the North. Its aim was to understand issues for housing in the north and identify practical solutions to enable growth and regeneration in the north.

Do you think the findings are still relevant today?

I think there’s been a step change in that there’s now a recognition that northern housing markets are different from the south and one size doesn’t fit all. The importance of regeneration is on the agenda and people are now talking about place making.  We have a lot to offer in the north such as affordable land and great rural areas. Whilst house values differ from other geographical areas, what remains is the potential the north has as a fantastic contribution to growth.

The levelling up white paper and devolution have certainly been catalysts for change but that said there’s still a way to go.

We made the case for the fact that housing is instrumental for economic growth and the whole of the economy, and that the north has a huge amount to offer. Now we need a holistic, national housing strategy with regional strategies that link into it – and devolution will make a difference here, with decision-making being brought to a regional level.

If there’s a change of government coming, let’s hope housing will be a priority.

 

What do you think should be key priorities for housing in the north over the next five years and the next 50 years?

Issues which will be a challenge for the north both in the short and long term include carbon reduction but it’s something we’ve got to tackle, and we must start now.  Part of this will be linked to retrofitting and ensuring we have the right resources and that we are implementing that effectively. We also need to continue listening to the customer and adapting and changing our services in line with their needs.

In addition, we should be constantly looking at how we can increase housing supply within the restraints of affordability and availability of skilled labour.  Things like the rising cost of materials will also have an impact.

We need to continually work to be smarter and more efficient in how we build and of course we have to listen to customers and adapt what we do to meet their needs.

Fuel poverty is a big issue now and I hope it won’t still be the case in 50 years’ time.

Whatever the timeframe, the focus should always be about housing supply.  Having sufficient and affordable homes for people in the right places and making sure that the homes we already have are decent and fit for purpose.

 

What do you feel the role of NHC is and what enables them to drive the changes that are needed?

I don’t think there is any other organisation in the north that represents the whole housing sector in the same way, spanning housing associations, local authorities, collaboration with the private sector and the voices of tenants. The Northern Housing Consortium are a strong voice for the north and their impact I feel can be broken into three key areas:

  • Influencing role – a voice for the north with government and key parties
  • Helping organisations become more efficient – through their procurement framework offering.
  • Events – Their events and roundtables are fantastic, bringing people together to discuss relevant issues as well as providing an opportunity to listen and learn from members and subsequently feed that back into the services and support they provide.

In essence, the culture of the organisation is all about having a can-do approach and it’s a way for people to come together, learn from each other and drive change.  It’s a body that can be a strong voice for housing across the north and which has a real influence with government.

 

And what gives you the most pride when you look back at your time in the housing sector?

Do you know what it’s a simple one. Essentially, it’s about seeing our work change communities for the better. Because what we do is about so much more than bricks and mortar!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Inside Housing events

Members are meeting with Inside Housing editor Martin Hilditch for an honest conversation about the issues affecting housing providers and local authorities in the North.

This month we held a breakfast in Newcastle and a dinner in Liverpool, and a further dinner will take place in Leeds in July.

Hot topics have so far included Tenant Satisfaction Measures, regulation and professionalism. There was also discussion about the green skills gap, devolution, and stronger partnership working between local authorities and housing associations.

These events are part of Influence North, where we offer members the opportunity to meet with influential people in the sector to share challenges in a Chatham House environment. Key contacts from every member organisation will be invited to at least one of our Influence North events throughout the year.

If you would like further information contact Director of Member Engagement Kate Maughan – kate.maughan@northern-consortium.org.uk.

Making resident involvement centre stage

Yvonne Davies has over 38 years of experience working in housing and communities, including her role as Head of Housing and Economic Development at the Audit Commission and Manging Director at a Merseyside Housing Association.

For the last 13 years, she has led YD Consultants, which supports housing providers with resident involvement and empowerment, board and customer governance, board and resident scrutiny and equality, diversity and inclusion.

Since 2011 Yvonne has worked with NHC on their joint Resident Involvement Conference. This years’ event will be held online on 4th and 12th June, find out more on our events page.

 

Can you tell us a bit more about the partnership between the NHC and yourself on the Resident Involvement Conference?  

As Head of Housing and Economic Development for the Audit Commission (AC) I spoke at the NHC Resident Involvement Conference for five years up to 2011.  At the time it was an in-person event for two days at the Blackpool Hilton.

I then moved to set up my own consultancy (www.ydconsultants.co.uk) and worked with the NHC to ensure tenant involvement and good practice in involvement and empowerment remained current.

I always meant to get a ‘proper job’ when I left the AC, but my consultancy has been popular and gives me a great deal of freedom to make a difference where I can add most value.

Alongside the NHC, we have been running the Resident Involvement Conference together now for 13 years. I’m pleased to say it’s still very popular. Not long after this, and to meet growing demand, we started a winter Tenant Voice Conference with the appetite for information and best practice being high all year round.

This has been helpful in more recent years of tenant consultation on new standards and new laws, given the influx of ongoing change.

As difficult as the covid years were, this time also had its benefits too –we moved online, offerering the conference free of charge, which was of mutual benefit to NHC and YDC members.

 

What have been some of your highlights from previous years events?

I like to think that tenants and staff who have attended the conference have been able to take improvement ideas back to implement them, in a way that suits them.

We know by attending, asking questions, and making comments, they have contributed and influenced regulatory and government thinking.

Overall, there have been many highlights over the years – probably far too many to mention! In person it’s been the connections made and ideas exchanged in workshops at the conference.

Online – it’s people saying “yes to speaking” – being more readily available to give up an hour (as opposed to sacrificing a day plus travel time which is much more difficult), to share their ideas and to take questions. I learn something new each year and enjoy sharing that with my network.

The Regulator of Social Housing and Housing Ombudsman Service speaking directly to tenants in bitesize chunks has also enabled tenants to understand their rights and helps them to hold their landlord to account.

 

Can you tell us a bit more about this year’s event? What are you looking forward to most?  

We always have great speakers who are doing lots of innovative things! In particular, I like the “shoplifting” of ideas that are shared freely across landlords and tenants on their approaches to engagement.

I always try to throw in some challenges too from those who are at the top of their game, so no-one gets complacent!

I love the questioning and challenges from tenants to the speakers from the Government, Regulator of Social Housing and the Housing Ombudsman including their, “So what difference will it make for me?” style questions”.

This year we have contributions and latest thinking from the Regulator, Ombudsman and Government. We also have some challenges and opportunities offered by the Stop Social Housing Stigma tenants’ group who are developing a tenant pledge and toolkit to help landlords address local social stigma issues, and the same by HACT and Shelter to make the case for more social housing.

We have some great practitioners and tenants speakingfrom organsiations such as L&Q, MHS, Prima, Gateway HA. All will be sharing their challenges and helping us learn how they are overcoming them, through their actions.

 

How has resident engagement evolved and changed over the past 50 years?

There has certainly been much change over the years. The Audit Commission (AC) was big on involvement and tenant services, measuring both the service as it was, and the prospects for improvement for all housing services until 2011, when the AC closed down.

That meant no more public score reporting on tenant services, which was sometimes a poor motivator, but effective for some landlords.

In 2012 the Tenant Services Authority (TSA) stepped in as an arm of the Regulator, producing some good practice reports and holding landlords to account when they suspected “serious detriment” or life and limb safety issues.

The TSA also invented co-regulation, due to their limited resources and lack of proactive brief on tenant services. With the expectation that landords would deliver and annually agree this in their statements of accounts.

This led to Boards and Councils self-assessing their compliance and gave me plenty of work as a consultant – but for many, it was no longer an organisational risk and therefore not as prominent for decision makers. A few years later, the TSA had a name change to the Regulator of Social Housing, but again with a non active remit.

The cut in rents from Government at their next election was detrimental and saw many landlords lose money and focus on what got measured instead of continuing their involvement journey. The cost-of-living crisis and covid also hampered landlords’ ability to reinvest and connect in involvement.

Many excellent involvement staff left the sector. We lost skills and commitment to meet, listen to customers in evening meetings and weekends and to follow through on issues.

Covid set us back on engagement, as landlords looked after the most vulnerable and trained staff on new platforms as we moved on-line with engagement. We lost, but also gained some new tenants to engagement. Thankfully however it has settled now, with most good landlords offering a hybrid approach.

The tragic fire at Grenfell where 71 people lost their lives was a key to change. This must lead to a lasting positive impact on safety and tenancy services, with a greater focus on hearing and acting for social housing residents.

The post government roadshows which followed the fire in 2017, were run by government and attended by Ministers. Here, they heard tenants talk of the social housing stigma, a lack of respect and concerns around multiple repair issues.

All of these were picked up in a 2018 Government Green Paper, which became a White paper in 2020 and law (the Social Housing Regulation Act) in July 2023 – effective after consultation, for Regulation by the RSH from April 2024.

Most importantly, new requirements on inspection and new consumers standards on tenant accountability and tenant influence mean that more staff are being employed again, in involvement.

As a sector, we are turning the ship back around to where it was and hopefully will remain and get even better. Involvement is starting to focus on measurable outcomes for tenants and landlords, which is where it should be.

 

And what do you hope to see over the next 50 years?

I will not be here in 50 years! But I am old enough now to see the same issues going around again and again. We have started inspecting again!

The Government still has a few challenges for landlords to add, like new regulations and inspection, requirements on safety repairs/damp and mould, Decent Homes Two and the Right to Information for tenants.

I am hopeful the Competency and Conduct Standard aimed at staff, where qualifications have been the key discussion, will move to its purpose which was based on customer care, addressing stigma, respect for tenants and how tenants should be listened to, heard and their views acted upon.

I am hopeful the inspection process will lead to landlords wanting to be at the top of their game in engagement and empowerment.

Very few things in the standards have changed – but the emphasis on inspection has sharpened the urgency of this and reignited excitement in involved residents that their views may be acted upon and more resources from landlords.

I feel we can now get away from titles like “Tenant” Board Members and instead start to see the resident contribution as a Board Member on customer services. I would like to think we will invest to support the skills of new and existing involved customers to maximise their contribution.

I’m hoping it is now clear that tokenistic involvement in Boards and Committees is not enough. We must reach out to all tenants with engagement and take note of their “so what difference will it make” questions.

It would also be good for landlords to say – we have no “hard to reach” groups – that way we know we have gone out of our way to gather every tenant’s view.

Generation Z is more socially minded, but they can’t afford to buy a home. It would be valuable to gather some of those younger views into engagement too, even if they are not the tenant yet.

What is great now is our more hybrid approach to involvement – online and in person surveys and zoom meetings, as well as face to face. I am sure and I hope this flexible approach will continue!  Residents use offices less too, so we are seeing more front line staff making changes and coming out to estates. I am not sure we have yet grasped, or use the intelligence this could bring back to our businesses to shape services, but this is improving.

Involvement is more dynamic now but what we haven’t yet maximised is evening meetings, which can be more inclusive of views of working households and holds the key to wider engagement, especially when run as hybrid and on a task and finish basis.

We are seeing more delegated powers to residents to approve policies and process change, where there are no resource implications outside the director’s own budget which is positive.

We are also beginning to see more landlords combining survey and involvement data.

More co-creation and co-design in focus groups of tenants, landlord staff and governors is growing too and is great to see.

At the end of the day our objective is clear. We all want the same thing – which is happy customers and great services.

In essence we don’t need anything complex or expensive, what we should be thinking about is:

  • A culture shift towards residents, where involvement outcomes are as ‘sexy’ and ‘newsworthy’, as the latest housing development.

 

  • The TSM’s and resident voices focussing Regulation on what matters most to tenants and keeping it real, (maybe more of a qualitative than measurement focus). A tenant said to me recently at a national conference– “I reported my dissatisfaction with the repairs service for two years and it got me nowhere including returning a number of surveys – will the TSM’s make a difference to that? or will I still need to find the Director’s phone number to fix my problem?”. We all know the TSM’s wont fix individual issues, however common.
  • Celebrate the contribution of great social landlords, and their involved tenants as they focus on doing the right thing and take responsibility to see things through to delivery, personally. That is what staff awards and rewards should be about.
  • Smile and welcome resident volunteer views – (they are a gift). At the end of the day, we should remember that we get paid – residents don’t. Residents give their time to improve services to see nothing happen and there is an expectation for us to do something with their contribution. We must listen but we must act too!

Happy 50th Birthday NHC, congratulations and on all you do – here’s to the next 50 and some fabulous tenant empowerment too!

Social Homes improves lives: a Shelter and IKEA research partnership

Shelter is doing a new two-year research project looking at the impact of moving into a social home.

The aim of the project is to gather evidence on the impact of moving into a social home to highlight the benefits and value of social housing. Shelter recently published a blog which announced the launch of the research project and provides further detail.

They hope the project will be a powerful way to illustrate the impact and importance of providing people with genuinely affordable, safe and secure homes, and that it will help to make the case for more investment in social rent homes.

Shelter have commissioned HACT to carry out the research project.  HACT will be working with social landlords to disseminate a survey to their social tenants. They’re planning to partner with 30-40 social landlords across the country to make sure the project reaches a representative group of social tenants.

Social landlords will have access to the anonymised findings from their residents to be able to benchmark their results. The researchers won’t publish the data at the level of individual social landlords.

For further information please contact frances.harkin@hact.org.uk

NHC brings Pride in Place to Downing Street

Our chief executive Tracy Harrison attended a reception of the Town Board Chairs at 10 Downing Street.

The reception was held to induct new Town Board Chairs into the programme by meeting each other, ministers, and introducing them to groups who will be essential to work with in the development and delivery of their programmes – such as the NHC and its members. Along with Levelling Up Minister Jacob Young MP, attendees heard from Towns Unit Chair Adam Hawksbee.

The theme of the reception centred around pride in place, funding, crime, arts and culture, and community engagement. Tracy attended to represent the NHC’s Pride in Place work, which speaks to many of the issues being addressed through Town Boards and the Long Term Plan for Towns.

We continue to engage with DLUHC and the Towns Unit to ensure that our members and their tenants’ voices are heard. We also hope to see the findings from our Pride in Place report continue to influence the government’s plans on increasing pride in local areas. Read ‘Pride in Place: view from Northern communities’ here.

General election opportunity to transform communities and lives across the North

The general election is an opportunity for the housing sector in the North to make a case for change, and look at how we’ll work with the next government to deliver for communities.

Chief Executive of the Northern Housing Consortium, Tracy Harrison said:

“We are in the midst of a housing crisis decades in the making. Everyone deserves to be able to access good quality, affordable homes rooted in great communities.

“The General Election offers a real opportunity to transform communities and lives across the North. Social housing providers are already delivering for, and with, people to make a real difference. We can go so much further and faster with a genuine partnership with Government.

“In the run-up to the election, we’ll continue talking to the main parties about how we can work with an incoming government to unlock the availability of affordable, decent and energy-efficient homes in the North;  building stronger communities and kick-starting a green economy.”

Watch out for further news about general election campaign.

NHC disappointed by change to Renters Reform Bill

Last week, the Renters Reform Bill passed its third reading in the House of Commons. It will now progress to the House of Lords before likely becoming law.

Renters Reform has been the source of continued controversy over recent weeks, following several changes being made to the Bill which were seen by campaigners in favour of the Bill as attempts to water down the protections it will provide to tenants.

Last week, the Renters Reform Coalition – a collection of organisations, including the Northern Housing Consortium, in favour of strengthening protections for private renters – withdrew their support for the Bill claiming that “In its current form, the Renters Reform Bill will be a failure”.

Principle among the changes that led to the withdrawal of support is the government’s decision to extend the period within which a tenant cannot give notice that they wish to end their tenancy from two to six months. In addition, the Renters Reform Coalition has called for the Bill to ensure that tenants are given a minimum of four months’ notice prior to eviction, rather than two months currently required in the Bill.

The government has also said that it intends to review existing arrangements around landlord licensing schemes overseen by local authorities in line with the reforms made through the Bill, with an eye to reduce the burden on landlords.

Finally, the government has confirmed that it does not intend to abolish Section 21 or ‘no fault’ evictions until reforms to the court system have been implemented.

As members of the Renters Reform Coalition, the NHC has consistently supported the initial aims of the Renters Reform Bill to “provide a fairer deal for renters”, to improve quality in the private rental sector, and to closer align the security of tenancies offered in the private and social rental sectors. We are disappointed that the government has watered down the proposals in the Bill.

Tracy Harrison, Chief Executive of the Northern Housing Consortium said:

“We are disappointed that government has watered down the Renters Reform Bill. The decision to delay the abolition of Section 21 evictions effectively kicks the issue into the long-grass and could weaken protections for tenants. Government must set a date when the assessment of the impacts on the courts of these changes will be complete.

“Government must also continue with its commitment to apply the Decent Homes Standard to the Private Rental Sector and set out a plan for improving the energy efficiency of private rented homes. Across the North, bringing all private rent homes to EPC C will cost around £5.4bn.

“Meanwhile a review of local authority licensing schemes aimed at reducing the burden on landlords could weaken one of the few tools available to improve the quality of private rented homes.

“Our recent Living in Fear Report highlighted the negative impacts of living in poor quality private rented housing. We are disappointed the Renters Reform Bill does not deliver solutions to the challenges private renters face.”

Government confirms one year rent settlement extension

The government has recently confirmed that, alongside the introduction of a new consumer regulation regime, the current rent formula will be extended for another year into 2025/26. This means that in April 2025, rents will be permitted to rise by the Consumer Price Index (CPI) taken from September 2024, plus an additional 1.0%.

You can see the government’s announcements here.

 

Tracy Harrison, Chief Executive, Northern Housing Consortium, said:

“Government’s announcement that the existing rent formula has been extended into 2025/26 will bring some reassurance for our members. This follows a long period of uncertainty as to how rent policy will change and many changes to the rent formula over recent years.

“However in the context of 30-year business plans, simply extending the current formula by another year does not give the certainty needed to plan much-needed investments in improving homes, decarbonising stock, and building new homes. Local authorities are also living with the consequences of year-to-year finance settlements.

“We need Government to agree to announce a long-term rent settlement that will enable housing providers to tackle the housing challenges communities face across the North.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

An exciting future in housing

Policy & Public Affairs Officer Joe Bews joined the NHC nearly two years ago and has recently completed his CIH Housing Level 4 qualification, through the GEM programme.

As part of the NHC’s 50 stories celebration, he reflects on his first year in the sector and how GEM has supported him to develop as a housing professional. He’s picked a few highlights from the past year as well as what he’s excited to see in the sector going forward.

What was your highlight of the year?

Through both the GEM programme and with the NHC, I’ve had the opportunity to get out and about visiting a range of different sites, from Passivhaus certified developments to MMC innovation factories.

I’ve particularly enjoyed getting to visit homes where you can see the tangible positive effects home upgrades such as insulation have had on residents’ lives. It’s brilliant to hear people say how much warmer and happier they are in homes that have been retrofitted, while also benefitting from cheaper bills.

One example of this was a visit I helped to organise with a local MP to an estate in Oldham which had had green home upgrades. I was delighted to see residents explaining the impact it had on their homes and bills to their MP who was able to see the great work of the housing association to improve constituents’ quality of life.

What is the biggest challenge for the housing sector going forward?

It’s well documented that there are various major challenges facing housing at present, but I feel a core challenge we as a sector need to tackle is ensuring there is the political will from policymakers to spur change. At the start of April, YouGov’s poll on the most important issues facing the country showed housing as the public’s fourth most important issue. It’s vital we illustrate that safe, affordable and good quality housing is intrinsically linked to other key issues facing the country such as health, which the public see as the second most important issue facing the country.

Our recent Living in Fear report highlighted the negative impacts living in poor quality housing – particularly during a cost of living crisis – can have on people’s health.

We need to communicate effectively to ensure the sector’s asks are heard and good housing is seen as a pillar of societal development. I think we should also focus on highlighting the ‘successes’ as much as possible to prove what can be done when the sector is supported. 

What do you think is the most important lesson from the past year?

That nothing should take place without listening and consulting with residents first. They are closer to the issue at hand than anyone and know what’s best for them, as one resident said ‘it’s not my house but it is my home’.

What are you most excited about for the future of social housing?

I’m excited about the opportunity we have to position housing at the forefront of a programme of national renewal. By linking health, net zero, levelling up and the cost-of-living to a large-scale initiative of building and upgrading high-quality sustainable homes, we can achieve a huge amount in a sector that is ready to lead the way.

I’m also excited about the prospect of encouraging more diversity in the sector. It’s clear to see that the housing sector could be much more diverse and representative of the residents it serves. I think improving diversity at all levels will only result in positive impacts for people living in social housing and should be a key focus for the sector going forward.

Discovering Amsterdam’s Green Scene, with the NHC and GEM programme

The GEM and Talent in Huis team

At the start of this month, I was lucky enough to be a part of the GEM Programme’s sustainability trip to Amsterdam.

The GEM Programme provides learning opportunities for people looking to develop their career in housing, alongside gaining a level 4 CIH qualification.

This trip was in collaboration with Talent in Huis, who are long standing partners of the GEM programme, and deliver a similar training programme for housing graduates in the Netherlands.

 

The GEM Sustainability Stream

The opportunity to visit Amsterdam came as part of the GEM’s new sustainability stream. This is a new part of the training programme, to develop GEMs working in sustainability and to inspire creative leadership to solve the net zero challenge.

Our first task was in August 2023. We met the Dutch trainees online and were put into working groups. Each group was paired up with a housing association, who gave us a sustainability related problem to solve. We worked together to create innovative solutions, which we presented back to the housing associations.

Yet, you can only learn so much from behind a laptop, and due to the Netherland’s famous commitment to active travel, social investment and sustainability, we were keen to get on our bikes and see for ourselves!

 

Off to Amsterdam!

We were warmly welcomed by the Talent in Huis team and trainees, and we quickly became friends.

One of the most important things I learned from this trip, was the value of cultural exchange. We discussed and compared standard practices in the housing sector in the UK and the Netherlands. This allowed us to examine our challenges with a fresh pair of eyes, and problem solve with more creative, innovative solutions (pinched from each other!).

This was particularly poignant when discussing the challenges of meeting the net zero challenge, to decarbonise housing by 2035.

 

Visit to Circular Buiksloterham

A miniature model of Buiksloterham

We visited the urban renewal project in Buiksloterham. Ewout Urbach explained that this area was initially deemed as ‘unusable land’ owing to its industrial past and lasting damage from the war.

Through their innovative circular planning approach, they have created a thriving local economy. They are developing a sustainable, low-carbon neighbourhood, that aims to maximise the use of existing materials and minimise waste. Their innovative online library that catalogues existing materials across the city was particularly impressive. Their ultimate goal is to create Amsterdam’s first circular urban development.

This remarkable and refreshing approach to urban development is something we hope to showcase in our member engagement programme. Keep your eye on our events page for more information!

Floating homes in Buiksloterham

Sustainable Communities at Kolenkitbuurt

We also visited Kolenkitbuurt which is a social housing estate in one of the poorest neighbourhoods in Amsterdam. Before it was renovated, Kolenkitbuurt had fallen into disrepair and the neighbourhood experienced high levels of unemployment, poverty and crime.

So far from home, it was striking to see the similar challenges that communities face. The hard work and commitment to community cohesion from local organisations echoed of the projects I have seen from our members in the North of England.

In Kolenkitbuurt, they have a uniquely high population of young people. It was recognised that in order to support this community, more opportunities for its young people must be delivered. A mentoring scheme that recruited local dads to support the young boys on the estate struck me as a valuable and inclusive community initiative.

This neighbourhood has recently been renovated, to ensure that social inclusion is at the core of its architecture. It had recently introduced a mixed tenure design, and the staff were working hard the ensure community cohesion overcame social segregation.

The walking tour of Kolenkitbuurt

It’s ‘bottom up’ strategy was cemented with its brand-new community centre, that provided a safe, supportive and creative space for tenants.

 

Final Stop: De Alliantie

Our last stop was spending a few hours at De Alliantie, a housing associations just outside of Amsterdam in Hilversum. They presented their progressive sustainability strategy, and gave us a tour of their new ground-source heat pump project. We identified common challenges, including tenant engagement and community buy-in.

I am very grateful to the NHC, the GEM programme and Talent in Huis for this brilliant experience. I’m looking forward to bringing what I’ve learned to our engagement programme, and introducing new ideas and speakers from the Netherlands to our membership.

For more information on the GEM programme, click here to see their 2025 prospectus.