The new Chief Executive of the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations (SFHA), Sally Thomas, has outlined her vision for the SFHA and the sector moving forward.
Sally Thomas (pictured above with Scottish Government Minister for UK Negotiations on Scotland’s Place in Europe Michael Russell MSP) gave her first speech since taking up her new role at the federation during its AGM on 30th August. Sally emphasised the importance of adapting to change and working together, while promising that the SFHA will be effective as a leading voice for the sector, influencing and bringing about positive change.
Sally Thomas, SFHA Chief Executive, said: “We live and work in times when change is inevitable; progress, however, is optional and that is the challenge — how to make progress on the back of unpredictability and complexity. I want to see us modernising, even while uncertainty makes us cling to the comfort of old models. The sector must plan for a future — which must involve young people. And, for those of us who are somewhat older, we must keep a radical edge, avoiding the safe, the cosy, and the familiar.
“There are challenges but also opportunities ahead — one of which is contributing to the Scottish Government’s development programme. Development needs to be smoothed out with annual and regional targets. But, meeting the target of 50,000 affordable home provides an opportunity to house more of Scotland’s poorest and most vulnerable people and stimulate the economy by providing jobs and apprenticeships.
“Welfare reform will continue to have a significant impact — and we will continue to campaign to reduce the damaging impact on our members and the people they house. We will also argue for a social security system that is more humane and compassionate.
“Our members also have a strategic role to play in improving the health and wellbeing of Scotland’s people — and the benefits of doing so are enormous. Not only will people be able to live longer independently in their own homes, but there are benefits to the public purse.
“The housing sector in Scotland has a strong sense of owning a shared mission, as social purpose organisations that care deeply about housing — how this manifests itself varies — as it should to reflect the geographical, locational and demographic differences — but the purpose, the intent, the similarities are fundamental; the differences smaller than might be thought.
“Taken together, there is a hugely impressive and transformative track record to build on for the opportunities, and risks, ahead. We have a responsibility to make the absolute most of what we have, and we should be optimistic and confident about our ability to do that – and more. Even with the huge uncertainties of Brexit.
“I, and the SFHA, will work with that grain — we will be effective — as a leading voice for housing that no one organisation can be alone. We will use the power of our collective strength to influence and advocate in the best interests of the people we house.
“I also want us to be efficient in our delivery by focusing on what our members need to be the best businesses they can for the benefit of the people they house and the communities they live in. SFHA can, and will, work with our members, and other stakeholders, to make that happen.”
Delegates at the AGM were also addressed by Scottish Government Minister for UK Negotiations on Scotland’s Place in Europe Michael Russell MSP. SFHA members discussed their concerns with Michael regarding Brexit’s potential impact on their organisations. An SFHA report, released in April 2017, found that chief among concerns were the impact of uncertainty on financial markets and private finance as well as on the construction and workforce supply chain and costs.
Michael said: “Housing remains, and will continue to remain, a top priority for the Scottish Government. Housing associations play a pivotal role in delivering the 35,000 social rented homes and the 50,000 affordable homes we are committed to delivering by March 2021. We need them to remain focused on this as well as on providing a good quality service to their tenants.
“We won’t allow the UK Government’s approach to Brexit to jeopardise this. It is important they remain resilient in the face of the uncertainty generated by Brexit. A forum like this is a great opportunity to share wisdom on how to do this. We are working with stakeholders across the housing sector to make sure we understand their interests and concerns.”