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The Chartered Institute of Housing is the independent voice for housing and the home of professional standards

How important is innovation in our sector?


As part of our centenary year, we’re looking back at the work of social housing pioneer Octavia Hill. At our executive briefing on 8 September, Trafford Housing Trust chief executive Matthew Gardiner will explore whether the sector has innovated enough to meet the challenges of modern social housing. Ahead of the event, we asked you to tell us about your innovations - here are some of the best. Would Octavia be impressed? We think so.

North Star Housing Group: stronger together

In 2011, North Star sent out a wellbeing survey to its staff. The results showed low employee engagement levels, high staff turnover, increasing levels of absenteeism and stress accounting for 30 per cent of absence.

The organisation made the link between employee wellbeing, engagement and how things were run - so it developed the 'Stronger together through shared leadership' (STTSL) development and inclusion programme to equip staff with the skills to manage and influence change, to develop leaders across the organisation, and to involve more people in decision making. Now a question regularly asked of staff is: "If you were CEO for the day, what would you change?"

Since the start of the STTSL programme, staff engagement levels have risen to around 90 per cent and absence rates have dropped from 4.85 per cent to 1.5 per cent. Associated costs of absence have fallen by £70,000 over four years - and these direct savings have been reinvested into the community North Star serves.

Find out more about this award-winning approach

Y:Cube living (YMCA London South West): genuinely affordable housing

YMCA London South West has developed a new housing solution called Y:Cube - it provides self-contained and affordable starter accommodation for people who are unable to either gain a first step on the housing ladder or pay the high costs of private rent.

Richard James, CEO of YMCA London South West, explained that as the largest provider of supported accommodation for young people in the country, YMCA is increasingly seeing young people struggling to afford the costs of private rent.

"We believe Y:Cube presents a significant opportunity to deliver genuinely affordable housing to meet the increasing housing demand in London that is not only affordable to rent but with the added effect of low utility bills," he said.

"The demand for affordable housing is significantly outstripping supply and the city desperately needs to find a solution which can enable young people to secure a place to call their own, while working and saving for a deposit and their next step towards independent living."

Find out more about Y:Cube

Futures Housing Group: healthier competition in the marketplace

Futures Housing Group recently adopted a brand new, "bureaucracy-busting" procurement contract, which is designed to help small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) grab a slice of significant public contracts.

This new contract, combined with the latest procurement rules, has enabled SMEs to tender for parts of bigger overall frameworks with Futures, creating healthier competition in the marketplace and access to a richer resource pool for the organisation.

John Thornhill, head of procurement at Futures, said: "The first contract we’ve put out under these new rules, which was for planned maintenance works, has seen around 90 businesses bid for the contract – which is unprecedented.

"It’s a win-win situation as it means we have a better selection of contractors, which makes for greater competition in the marketplace and enables smaller firms to generate more income through big contracts and increase their cash flow."

Find out more about Futures Housing Group's work

Get involved

  • Event: Survive or thrive? Join Matthew Gardiner, chief executive of Trafford Housing Trust, on 8 September in London at our free-for-members executive briefing to discover why innovation and disruption are key
  • Get stuck in: Fancy telling us about your own examples of innovation? Drop us an email and ask how you can get involved with CIH guest blogging
  • Blog: How can we find innovative ways to provide suitable temporary accommodation in such a challenging environment? Find out

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