The Role of the Not-for-Profit Housing Sector in Addressing The Affordable Housing Challenge

An International Symposium was held at St Edmund’s College in Cambridge on 10th September 2018, which was co-sponsored by Clarion Housing Group and L&Q. The event also formed part of the European Network for Housing Research’s 30-year anniversary celebrations and received a donation from UK’s Collaborative Centre for Housing Evidence.

Following the launch of the Future Shape of the Sector Commission report Building homes, Building Trust’ (June 2018), this symposium brought together eighty international academics, industry leaders and policy makers from twelve different countries to carry forward the Commission’s work, share latest findings and inform thinking around the future directions in not-for-profit housing, neighbourhood development, governance and finance. This major impact event was global in outlook, with the aim of developing a cross-cultural exchange and an on-going research agenda to support the sector in addressing the housing challenges facing today and those of future generations.

The main conference was opened by Lord Andrew Turnbull (Chair of the Future Shape of the Sector Commission) and Professor Peter Boelhouwer (Chair of the European Network for Housing Research). Clare Miller (Director of Governance and Compliance, Clarion Housing Group) then outlined the aims of the Commission and its key messages, stressing that academic research plays a critical role, particularly in reflecting on how housing and land markets operate, the financial, or regulatory constraints on the sector and the unintended consequences of following particular courses of action.

Marina Alcalde-Irisson (Deputy CEO, Paris Habitat) and Professor Vincent Gruis (Delft University of Technology) followed by highlighting the common challenges facing the Not for Profit Housing sectors in France and the Netherlands, respectively, stressing the acute affordable housing backlogs and funding systems that are equally under pressure. Professor David Mullins (University of Birmingham), Dr Gerard Van Bortel (Delft University of Technology) and Paddy Gray (University of Ulster and Board member of Wheatley Group) then spoke on how international academic research can support the Not for profit housing sector, reflecting on the benefits of comparative and longitudinal research which critically analyses how the sector manages conflicting commercial and social goals, and how to retain a social purpose through on-going resident and community engagement. Each of the speakers made links to research methods, theoretical contributions to debates and the importance of on-going learning exchange between practitioners and academics.

In the afternoon, the delegates were split into working groups tasked with discussing a series of questions derived from the Future Shape of the Sector Commission Report. Austen Reid (Clarion Housing Group) and Dr Julie Lawson (RMIT) facilitated Group A ‘Delivering in the market’; Joost Nieuwenhuijzen (European Federation for Living) and Professor Alex March facilitated Group B ‘Strategic direction, structure and governance’; Anne Chapman (Golding Homes) and Kath Scalon (LSE) facilitated Group C ‘Place making and regeneration’, Helen Wilson (Clarion Housing Group) and Dr Tony Manzi facilitated Group D ‘Social purpose and brand trust’ and Mike 2Ward (Campbell Tickell) and Dr Elanor Warwick (Clarion Housing Group) facilitated Group E ‘Delivering high quality services through digital technology’.

The penultimate panel session, Chaired by Professor Hal Pawson (University NSW) considered how to strengthen the capacity of the Not for Profit Housing sector in other countries. After outlining the key difficulties that the sector faces in scaling up in Australia, Hal introduced the five panellists. Dr Moserrat Parjeja-Eastaway (University of Barcelona) provided an illuminating account of the challenges that the sector faces in Spain. Dr Chiara Rizzica (Fondazione Housing Sociale) raised capacity issues facing the sector in Italy. Dr Jaana Nevalainen (Ministry Advisor) addressed concerns in Finland. Dr Rob Wiener (California Coalition for Rural Housing and University of California, Davis) discussed the challenges in the USA.

The final panel session chaired by Lord Turnbull included panellists Aubrey Adams (Chair of L&Q), Ben Pluijmers (Chair of European Federation for Living) and Joroen Van der Veer (Amsterdam Federation for Housing Associations) who summed up what was gained from sharing international experiences and how to take the working groups’ action points forward into practice. Dr Nicky Morrison (University of Cambridge) closed the conference by setting out the next steps – and yes – bringing every one together had been a huge task but fully worth it, seeing every one’s can-do attitude, commitment to the sector and tackling the affordable housing challenge. The conference was followed by a four-course candle lit dinner served in St Edmund’s College’s Dining Hall, with the Master of the College, Matthew Bullock who participated in the whole event, inviting everyone to capitalise upon these vital international connections. Professor Peter Boelhouwer responded that this event truly marked a 30-year anniversary celebration of European Network for Housing Research.

Dr Nicky Morrison
University of Cambridge


The Future Shape of the Sector Commission

Clare Miller, Director of Governance and Compliance, Clarion Housing Group

What are the challenges facing the NFP housing sectors in other European countries and how are they responding?

The French experience Marina Alcalde-Irisson, Deputy CEO, Paris Habitat

The Dutch experience Professor Vincent Gruis, Delft University of Technology

How can academic research support the NFP housing sector?

Professor David Mullins, University of Birmingham

Dr Gerard Van Bortel, Delft University of Technology

Professor Paddy Gray, University of Ulster & Board Member of Wheatley Group

How do we strengthen the capacity of the NFP housing sector in other countries?

Dr Monserrat Pareja-Eastaway, University of Barcelona, Spain