22 September 2021

It can sometimes feel like a cliché to say a conference is timely. But for this year’s National Smaller Housing Associations’ Conference, taking place next week, it really is.

We are hot on the heels of the largest reshuffle Boris Johnson has done since he became Prime Minister in July 2019, and we can expect big changes afoot.

Housing has been at the centre of these changes. We now have a new Secretary of State in Michael Gove, and a renamed department – MHCLG is now the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC). At present we can only speculate, but appointing a senior politician like Gove to housing does hint to some transformative plans coming up for our sector.

The conference will also take place in the middle of party conference season – where we can expect all major political parties to announce new policies. These could be bigger and more ambitious than usual, as parties begin shaping their boldest plans with the next General Election getting closer.

I’m chairing the Smaller Housing Associations’ Conference, and can’t wait to unpick the latest political insights from the packed agenda of politicians, think tanks and sector leaders.

As with all the content across this unique two-day event, we’ll explore everything through the lens of a smaller housing association. We have debates and discussions on everything from the role smaller housing associations in social and economic recovery from the pandemic, to supporting people following the Afghanistan crisis.

We will also focus on the opportunities for community-based organisations in the levelling up agenda, particularly in light of recent political announcements. Among other changes, Gove has already appointed Neil O’Brien as a new Minister at DLUHC. Neil was the Prime Minister’s adviser on levelling up, and will be interested in the role that smaller housing associations play in their communities.

We’ll cover all of the biggest topics facing smaller housing associations, including building safety, resident engagement and consumer regulation, the mental health emergency, and climate change. In fact, we end the conference with a high-profile panel session on climate change, which includes Lord Deben from the Climate Change Committee.

On top of all this brilliant content, we’ll also have the opportunity to connect in person for the first time in 18 months, and I’m very much looking forward to seeing colleagues from across the sector. This will provide an important chance to catch up with your peers across smaller housing organisations, and also make new connections with people that have joined our sector since the start of the pandemic.

We have put a number of measures in place to keep you feeling safe, so you can relax and enjoy speaking to people. Tickets are still on sale, and these must be purchased before 30 September so that we can safely manage numbers on site.

If you decide to attend virtually, it’ll be the professional, interactive experience our delegates have come to expect from an #NHFVirtual event, with access to all the high-level discussions taking place, and plenty of opportunities to ask questions. All recorded and available to watch on demand for three months after the event.

Whichever way you choose to attend, I look forward to seeing you at the Smaller Housing Associations’ Conference next week for a timely and lively two days.

You can follow the action via #SmallerHousingAssociations on Twitter.

Kate Henderson

Kate Henderson is chief executive of the National Housing Federation

The political backdrop to this year’s Smaller Housing Associations’ Conference