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“We must stay focused on our social purpose as we respond to the coronavirus pandemic” – Read our CEO Kevin Rodgers’ comment piece for Inside Housing

This week our Chief Executive Kevin Rodgers features in a comment piece in Inside Housing, the biggest magazine in the housing sector.

The piece focuses on how housing associations must stay focused on their social purpose as they respond to the coronavirus pandemic and discusses the launch of our 2020-23 business strategy this week.

Read the full article below:

It’s hard to know if we will ever go back to what we considered normal just six months ago.

As we look to the future plenty of challenges lie ahead for housing associations.

How do we respond to the huge barriers many people in our communities face as we enter recession?

How do we capitalise on the opportunity to arrange our workplaces differently, in a way which supports us to work more effectively and satisfies the demand from our teams for greater flexibility?

How do we meet the changing expectations our residents have about the services we provide and the way we provide them?

Yet despite all the potential for the way that we work and the world around us to change, some things don’t.

Let’s be honest – we haven’t fared anywhere near as badly as many sectors during the pandemic.

Of course there have been challenges, but if you think the impact on your income forecast and your other KPIs has been severe, spare a thought for what the books of a travel firm, a retail outlet or a chain of restaurants must look like.

I don’t want to belittle the recovery needed to get our work back on track. At Citizen our teams have been working extremely hard to bring our performance back to the level it was prior to the pandemic.

But the need for the services that we provide is not going away and people in our communities are likely to need us as much as ever in the coming months and years.

We all have a duty to quickly refocus on the work that can make the biggest difference to the most people.

On 1 September we mark our first birthday as Citizen and little could we have known the challenges that lay in story for our first 12 months.

Just two weeks before lockdown came into effect we launched the headlines of our 2020-23 business strategy to our staff with a view to launching the full strategy in April. Needless to say, when coronavirus came along there were other priorities and we delayed this.

Six months later we are now in a position to use our anniversary to reveal our objectives for the next three years.

Many housing associations will have been having similar conversations, and the challenge we must set when we do this is not to bring the axe down on the projects that are difficult and do not deliver an immediate – or any – financial return.

We all need to focus on financial targets and viability to secure our future, but we also need to keep our decision-making rooted in our social purpose.

Relative to the incredibly difficult conversations boards and executive teams must be having in other sectors, I feel very fortunate that when we came to review our initial strategy we were able to proceed with nearly all of our plans.

And the first projects that we wanted to preserve were those we know will have the biggest impact on the lives of people in our communities.

So, for example, we will continue to pilot our new re-let standard and we will continue with our massive long-term regeneration projects in Coventry. Neither of these projects will bring in more income, but they are investments in our communities which will be life-changing for generations to come.

They were the right thing to do before the pandemic, and they still are.

The nature of coronavirus is extraordinary, but we’ve faced many challenges in our sector; some which have affected our organisations more severely than this.

So, as we look to recover and work out how we support the people who really need us, let’s challenge ourselves to keep doing the work which has the biggest impact on our communities.

That is what we are here to do and in an ever-changing world, it is one thing which has not changed.

Kevin Rodgers, Chief Executive at Citizen

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