Our column that introduces you to one of the people leading the work of our member organisations is back. In this edition, we cross the 'Chunnel' to meet Kate Henderson, the new Chief Executive of the National Housing Federation. Kate took over from David Orr in autumn 2018 the lead in the organisation that is the voice of housing associations in England. She provides with insights concerning the housing sector at the moment in England and how it feels "preparing for uncertainty". Plus, as usual, she unveils her way of balancing life with work.
- I would describe NHF in 10 words as a brilliant, dedicated team working for a fantastically impressive sector – it’s my absolute privilege to lead it.
- Our key objective is... We want to see a country, and a world, in which everyone has a good quality home that is right for them that they can afford. It’s such a basic premise, which surely everyone can agree on, and yet as a nation we haven’t been getting this right for a long time. We know housing associations can play an even bigger role in tackling the country’s housing crisis. The work of the Federation is about enabling our members to reach their potential, so that they can ultimately house many more people in great homes.
- Apart from housing provision, our mission is to create the environment in which our members can thrive and deliver on their social purpose. We know that a good quality, affordable home is key to enabling people to achieve their goals, but our members do so much more – creating communities, supporting residents, reducing inequalities. The National Housing Federation exists to support our members to deliver beyond bricks and mortar too.
- We joined Housing Europe because we firmly believe in the importance of working with others to overcome housing challenges. There are so many brilliant initiatives among Housing Europe’s members and we always want to learn more from our friends and neighbours.
In the UK
- Housing is considered to be in the UK a commodity. We’re very much encouraged to buy our homes in the UK, which we know is partly down to people believing in the security a home provides them. People living in the private rented sector don’t have as much security so those who can afford to buy their homes generally do so. But we haven’t built enough homes to meet that demand, so prices are rising ever beyond reach and we’re seeing a real divide between people who can afford a house and people who can’t. This has led to people being stigmatised for not owning their home, particularly among those living in social housing. We’re doing lots to demonstrate the value of social housing, including the security it provides to residents – and we’ll continue to do that for as long as we need to.
- Our key partners in the country are local councils. Local governments have a huge number of responsibilities, which are becoming ever challenging in the current economic environment. Housing associations share a lot of values with local authorities and are working to some of the same goals, so they are essential partners to us. Our sector’s relationship with local authorities has been tested in recent years, but I’d like to overcome some of the challenges so we can work better together to provide affordable housing to those who need it most.
- Our main housing policy priority at the moment is preparing for uncertainty. With two months to go until Britain is due to leave the EU, it’s still very unclear how the nation will be affected. We’re concerned about the potential for a housing market downturn and the impact that this and other factors could have on our members’ ability to build the homes we already desperately need. Making the case to government for support will be our absolute priority over the coming months and I’m optimistic that housing associations can achieve great things despite the uncertainty.
- The major challenge for the country today is inequality and division. I think one of the things the Brexit vote has shown is that there are lots of people who feel that they’ve been overlooked. We need to understand and address their concerns if we’re going to move forward, while also tackling some of the very stark inequalities, like rising levels of homelessness. I have a lot of faith in housing associations as community anchors to help address housing inequalities and work with others to overcome the challenges we’ll be facing as housing providers in the coming years.
- I start my working day catching up with colleagues, meeting members and politicians, or speaking at conferences.
- After leaving the office I either pick my kids up from nursery and school, or I head to a parliamentary reception or member event. Every now and again I fit in a cheeky pint in the pub with friends.
- Currently I am reading lots about housing policy while listening to the radio to keep up with the latest in politics.
- I move around by train
- I prefer having on my table coffee, chocolate and my laptop