Opinion: Are you delivering value for money? It’s time to check your costs and find out! | News

Opinion: Are you delivering value for money? It’s time to check your costs and find out!

By Alistair McIntosh, HQN CEO

Every year the Regulator of Social Housing (RSH) publishes their global accounts for all associations with more than 1,000 homes.

We now have these for the 2019/20 financial year. Due to the cut off at the end of last March, the figures do not reflect anything like the full impact of the lockdown. Obviously, the returns for 2020/21 and your future plans will be very different – but you still have to make sense of how you’re faring versus your peers to comply with the VfM standard, and the global accounts are a good place to start.

At the same time as the RSH put out these accounts, they usually also give us a run-down of the cost per home across these associations. The RSH hasn’t released this data yet but it’s possible to glean the numbers from the spreadsheets we can see.

We show the key points in the tables and charts shown below so you can start to see how you’re getting on. HQN will double check the figures when the official spreadsheet comes out.

Here are a few headlines to be going on with:

The Headline Social Housing Cost per home went up from £4,118 to £4,256 –an increase of 3.3% year on year. That’s coming in at about double the CPI rate of 1.5% in the 12 months to March 2020. Why was this? Many landlords have been doing works to make stock safer after Grenfell, so that’s a contributory factor.

While that was going on, the size of the stock rose at the glacial pace of 1.3%, though that did bring 34,812 extra homes into management.

One of the most commented on trends in social housing is consolidation. When the global accounts first came out it was for the 2011/12 financial year. Back then there were 400 associations with 1,000 or more homes. By 2020 that number had fallen by almost a half to 210, caused mainly by mergers. This raises the question: is bigger better, or at least cheaper? Let’s take a look:

Table

RP size band

Cost per home 2019/20

1,000 to 2,499 homes

£7,414

2,500 to 4,999 homes

£4,965

5,000 to 9,999 homes

£3,989

10,000 to 19,999 homes

£3,943

20,000 to 29,999 homes

£3,962

30,000+ homes

£4,274

ALL

£4,256

Graph

Well, it’s a mixed picture. Why are the 1,000 to 2,499 costs so high? It’s because this bracket includes many care organisations, and we know that drives costs up. But it’s not the whole story – you do get a new entrant and a couple of stock transfers in there, too.

So, some of the landlords in this group have questions to answer. On the whole, though, the bigger landlords shouldn’t look to this group for succour.

It’s the case that those landlords with more than 30,000 homes do cost more to run per home than all bar those landlords with fewer than 5,000 homes. What does this mean?

Are they bloated and inefficient? Or are they doing more for residents than smaller landlords? It may turn out that they’re on the right path, as costs fell by 0.5% for the biggest landlords whilst rising across the sector. We shall see.

Perhaps the moment of truth will come when inspection returns. As things stand, we know a lot about costs but next to nothing about quality. It’s only when you bring those two factors together that you can talk properly about VfM.

NB. Half a dozen of the RPs in the dataset have December year ends.

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HQN have issued a spreadsheet model to members of the Housing Finance Network that allows further analysis of the 2020 Global Accounts and when the VfM metrics are published another model will be issued. For information about joining the Housing Finance Network, please contact networks@hqnetwork.co.uk