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  • Writer's pictureKunle Awofeso

The increasing responsibilities of public sector development teams and asset managers

Updated: May 23

The changing regulatory landscape and challenging funding environment will continue to require a more joined-up approach between RPs’ development and asset management teams if each RP (as an organisation) is to ensure their developments are fit for purpose and that they will remain fit for purpose through their service lives.

The changing landscape and the increasing responsibilities of public sector development teams and asset managers require a corresponding change in mindset for RP’s overall housing delivery approaches.

For example, the implications of the following clearly show the increasing responsibilities of public sector development teams and asset managers:

  • Fire Safety (England) Regulations 2022: The regulations place specific obligations on development teams and asset managers to help shore-up fire safety provisions in housing. Non-compliance can undermine developments going forward and can have dire consequences for the responsible person!

  • Changing Building Regulations (in tandem with the upcoming Future Homes Standard) - including further amendments to Part F and Part L of the Building Regulations for new homes. This essentially puts a halt to “business as usual’’ as new developments and other qualifying large-scale redevelopments will have to adopt new technologies (e.g., no more gas-fired boilers from 2025). A joined-up approach between development teams and asset managers in selecting the right heating (& ventilation) solution which can be cost-effectively maintained throughout its design life becomes critical. Ensuring the end user is properly on-boarded to use the new technologies correctly is also critical.

  • Upcoming Social Housing (Regulations) Bill: With a new Social Housing Regulator soon to be appointed, RPs will be under scrutiny, especially with regard to their housing landlord services. The Bill will place responsibilities on “Senior Housing Executive’’ or “senior housing manager’’ (defined terms in the draft bill).

Although focused on asset management as currently drafted, the definition of a “senior housing executive’’- part of the provider’s senior management (see extracts below) - appears broader than asset management and may well be interpreted to include development.

Part of the bill will also require social housing managers to gain professional qualifications under new rules to protect residents and raise standards in the sector. Although, the Bill is at its final stages and currently going through considerations of amendments prior to achieving Royal Assent later this year, we would expect the final bill to include for not just professional qualifications, but a requirement for ongoing structured training and continuous professional development.

The Bill will apply to employees of Housing Associations and Local Authorities only. Around 25,000 managers across the sector will now be required to have an appropriate level housing management qualification regulated by Ofqual equivalent to a Level 4 or 5 Certificate or Diploma in Housing, or a foundation degree from the Chartered Institute of Housing.

Housing associations will be required to fund the training themselves, while Local Authorities will be assessed for new ‘burden funding’.

For full benefits realisation, we would expect such certification to transcend core housing services and extend to fundamentals of development to help bridge the current service delivery gaps between development and asset management. At the minimum, this should ensure effective stakeholder input from asset managers and bolster the requirement for more effective data (information) management & reporting, for efficient asset management and resident satisfaction purposes.

Ongoing capacity building should be at the core of RP’s strategy, in response to the evolving landscape and Local Authorities especially (given their more acute need for capacity building) will need to prioritise this.

Overall, the upcoming Social Housing (Regulations) Bill will change the landscape within which RPs development and asset management teams operate.

  • Funding constraints & the need to optimise development investment value: The current funding constraints are not expected to ease for the forceable future, which means RPs will have to be creative in how the development and asset management services are delivered to meet regulatory, resident and their investment requirements. In a nutshell, this will require a more joined-up approach between RPs development and asset management teams. Asset Managers will need to be an integral and active part of the development stakeholder group – not a bolt-on!

In conclusion, responding positively to the evolving landscape should enable better service delivery by RPs- but that is, if the step-change is properly managed, resourced and funded.

There are various opportunities for RPs given the clear business case for the required step-change and these do not necessarily require overly complex initiatives, nor do they involve any significant additional funding (in cases, no additional funding at all). A number of practical and effective considerations are:

  1. Effective project stakeholder management and project governance: These are structural changes that can be made at project inception to drive optimum benefits optimisation.

  2. RP’s organisational structure: Which organisational structure best responds to the evolving landscape (Functional, Project, Matrix or Composite organisational structure?)

  3. Information management: How best to capture the right information during and at the end of the development phase (project life cycle) to facilitate effective asset management during the post-occupation phase (product life cycle)- and reduce maintenance costs.

  4. Ongoing Capacity Building: This should be a core Social Value aspiration for all RPs- across new build developments, regeneration and asset management – supported by consultants and contractors.

We see a future in RP’s development and asset management which can help maximise savings, drive optimum Value for money, raise residents’ satisfaction levels and improve on RP’s overall service delivery if RPs respond positively to the evolving changes in the housing landscape.

Airey Miller has been implementing some of these initiatives with our Local Authority clients for many years, so we are well positioned to assist other RPs take the leap-change and derive the enormous benefits this brings. We will be covering these and related matters in a bit more detail at our upcoming Councils Building Homes event (CBH 12) on 21st June 2023.

All change please!

‘Kunle Awofeso

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