12 January 2024

Tina recently spoke about the type of changes she is looking forward to within social housing. Read on to find out what exactly she had to say.

I think it is important to look at what we want from the next rent settlement, balancing both affordability for residents and viability for housing providers. We have the rent settlement up until 2025 which allows social housing providers to increase rents by CPI+1%. The government has now confirmed that it will not be capping increases in 2024 and with the unfreezing of the Local Housing Allowance most social housing providers will be raising rents by 7.7% in April 2024.

Given the impacts of inflation on housing providers and the political uncertainty of these coming years, there needs to be long-term certainty on rents, so that we can continue to provide the services our customers rely on while keeping housing affordable for individuals and families.

Affordable rent is not affordable for a lot of people, yet social rent can be significantly below the market. If we had the flexibility of a rent envelope whereby we could increase overall rents up to CPI+1%, whilst allowing individual rents to be increased/decreased based on affordability, ie the old rent convergence – that would be a better solution in terms of enabling us to manage our income.

Similarly, people living in homes next to each other can be on completely different rent regimes – it can be very difficult to explain why their rents are different due to all the complexities. We need a simplistic model to explain to residents why they are paying a certain rent.

We are now in the process of setting our next business plan for 2025-30 and the more we know about what our key income is, the better we will be able to provide support services for our residents. For example, we will be able to better plan for our big challenges such as building safety and fire safety, whilst also focusing on developing much-needed new homes.

If the government gives us certainty, we are more likely to get that balance right in terms of where we spend our resources and we can ensure that we provide a great service to our residents.

To sum up, I think what we need to fully support all of our residents effectively, is more certainty, transparency and simplicity.

Tina Barnard

Tina Barnard, Chief Executive, Watford Community Housing

Tina has been Chief Executive of Watford Community Housing since its formation in 2007. She is a qualified accountant who has been in the housing sector for over 30 years, working as a Finance Director in three housing organisations – CHP, Worthing Homes and New Era – and as a financial analyst at the Housing Corporation. As part of Watford Community Housing’s wider Group activities, Tina serves on the Clarendon Living Board and as a Clarendon Living representative to our Hart Homes joint venture with Watford Borough Council. She is also Chair of both our Three Rivers Homes and Hertsmere Living Ltd joint venture companies with key local authority partners, and is co-founder of the Greener Herts partnership, which is working to make Hertfordshire’s homes more sustainable. Tina has been a Non-Executive Director for a number of housing and charitable organisations, and is currently the Interim Chair of Parasol Homes.

What type of changes are you looking to see within social housing?