The Housing Collective: Addressing the Housing Crisis: the Role Executives Have to Play

27 mins
Tom Neely

By Tom Neely

In this third post exploring our recent Housing Collective podcast with Sarah Jones, CEO of Anchor, we discuss how organisations such as Anchor are helping to address the housing crisis, and the role executives have to play in rectifying this situation.

Demand for affordable, diverse, and inclusive social housing within the United Kingdom continues to grow. With Shelter reporting that over 1.2 million families and individuals across England are currently stuck on waiting lists for social homes, it’s never been more important to ensure that organisations across the industry have the executive leadership talent and expertise they need to provide their services.

“We’re still viewed as specialist housing within the sector, as well as outside the sector… Given that one in four of us will be over 65 by 2037, how can that be anything other than mainstream?”

—Sarah Jones, CEO, Anchor

In this post, we explore the impact of ageing populations, economic uncertainty, and the UK housing crisis on the wider industry. They look closely at how business leaders within the housing industry can employ holistic approaches to operations. These strategies can help business leaders to enhance their organisation’s resilience and address these increasingly complex challenges.

How Anchor is Helping to Address the Housing Crisis

Anchor is currently the largest operator of social housing for over 55s within the United Kingdom and has quickly risen to become the fourth largest residential care home operator within the nation.

The organisation focuses on the principle of putting its residents at the heart of everything they do, guided by its strategic vision of the “four mores”: 

  1. Providing more and better homes where people love living in later life
  2. Offering more opportunities for colleagues to develop their careers 
  3. Becoming a more influential advocate for older people 
  4. The drive to become more efficient and innovative in their housing services 

The organisation administers 35,000rented units and 12,500homeownership units, with over 10,000 colleagues serving 65,000 residents across 85% of local authority areas in the UK.

Given the UK’s ageing population, Anchor—with Sarah as CEO—are focused on developing innovative approaches to the challenges that are currently facing the housing industry, allowing them to continue to strongly advocate for the housing needs of not only their existing residents, but those people that will form their next generation of customers by providing older people with the right level of care, support, and choice. 

Sarah notes that the perception—fuelled by divisive public discourse—of older people as “housing blockers” or “bed blockers” is leading to intergenerational challenges that the industry, and organisations such as Anchor, need to face head-on. This othering of older people within the UK is something she encounters within the seminars and housing industry events she attends: 

“The thing I find particularly challenging when I go to… forums talking about older people’s services or housing, [is that] people talk about ‘they’—’they will want this’ or ‘they will want that’—a kind of othering of anyone that’s over 55 [which] is really unhelpful… everybody has a history and a hinterland, and they should be valued.”

For Sarah, the solution to debates, such as whether older people are blocking family housing, comes back to ensuring that the housing offered to the individuals within these demographics is aspirational and suited to their practical, everyday needs. 

How Executives Can Help to Tackle the Housing Crisis

Her advice to business leaders within the industry is focused on a holistic approach, and the importance of helping older people to age in place within their communities. This is salient as we begin to lead longer lives, albeit in less than best health—with those people starting on their dementia journey less likely to need to enter into residential care early, or suffer from a slip, trip, or fall, if they have the support of the community around them.

The demonstrable social value that organisations such as Anchor can provide by offering age-appropriate housing and communities for older people is clear, but joining up all aspects of housing, social care, and health is the real challenge for executives looking to enter into a CEO role within the housing industry

Whilst this isn’t solely a task for businesses within the sector, it’s important that future business leaders recognise the role they have to play as champions for this holistic approach to older peoples’ housing and the impact they can have on policymakers. This returns to Anchor’s “four mores”, particularly the strategic vision of becoming more influential within the public discourse on the housing, care, and social needs of the aged. 

“There is a lot that we can do within the current legislative and economic framework. We’re not asking for revolution. We can have all the conversations about planning reform, we can have all the conversations about social care funding. They will go on and on for a number of years, but there is a lot that we can do now to make lives better for everybody.

It’s clear that executive leadership has a role to play in addressing the housing shortage and the challenges faced by older people. By employing holistic approaches to operations, business leaders can enhance their organisational resilience, which will become ever more crucial as the not-for-profit, private, and public sectors are called upon to effectively tackle the complex issues posed by ageing populations, economic uncertainty, and the housing crisis.

Sarah is clear on her goals for Anchor, with an emphasis on continuing to provide an excellent level of care and ever-improving, safe, and affordable homes, as well as a mission of championing the housing needs of older people. Executives and business leaders have a crucial role to play in championing an approach to housing, social care, and health, influencing policymakers and making a positive impact on the often divisive public discourse around the aged. 

By working within the existing framework and taking immediate, pragmatic action, lives can be improved for everyone affected by the housing crisis.

Specialist Housing Executive Search Firm

Whether you’re a candidate making a career change or you’re a business leader searching for a seasoned expert within the housing industry, Neemar Search is here to support you.

If you’re interested in learning more about the challenges facing the housing sector or you’re searching for more leadership lessons, join the Housing Collective Newsletter for the latest expert insights.

We’re dedicated to partnering with leading not-for-profit housing associations, local authorities, arms-length management organisations (ALMOS), and for-profit enterprises to drive change within the industry through executive staffing solutions. Whether you require recruitment expertise within corporate or customer services, asset management, development, or finance, we can help you to make an impact. Contact us to learn more about our specialist hiring services within the housing industry. 

© Neemar Search 2024
Site by Venn