No surprises, really

When the new government announced its intention to reduce capital grants for housing associations, the implications were immediately obvious to many in the sector.

I remember listening to the CEO of the National Housing Federation on the day he’d been briefed about the likely scale of the cuts. His immediate response was that this was serious: there would be minimal new social housing as a result. On closer inspection, however, it looked even worse.

Rather than jump to conclusions, however, Family Mosaic decided to do some serious research. Using the new proposals as the basis, they tracked the likely impact it would have on 50 of their new tenants. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it wasn’t good: most were unable to afford the proposed new rents. And, as a result, the taxpayer would end up paying more through increased housing benefit. As a close friend might say, “No shit Sherlock”.

The point of the research, however, was not to stand on the sidelines and point. It was to start a process of engagement and conversation: the proposal is here to stay. Family Mosaic have to live with it, and want to continue to build new homes.

So we were asked to edit and design the report: and to turn it around as quickly as possible. The solution lay in making it as accessible as possible, incorporating as many infographics as possible, while not dumbing down the detail. We recommended printing relatively few (100, high quality, digital), and pushing the PDF version through various online channels.

It’s an approach that has worked well, thanks to Family Mosaic’s connections and status within the sector. There’s been stories about the report in Inside Housing (as well as plenty of comments), discussions with local authorities based on it, and mentions of the report in the House of Commons.

And so the debate has begun.