Beyond VFM: Social Impact
Housing associations are not like commercial developers who simply build a set of units, take the profit and leave. Instead, housing associations are instrumental in place shaping, creating sustainable communities by investing in local jobs and infrastructure, allowing the communities to become more confident and making the location a desirable place to live. Not only does this improve life chances, but it also brings wealth to the local economy. Providing houses and opportunities for employment creates a virtuous circle, increasing local spend, having a knock-on effect on reducing anti-social behaviour (ASB), incentivising people to move there.
Not only is this advantageous for the community, but it is also beneficial for the housing associations themselves. The higher the rate of employment, and the less ASB, means that rent is paid and estates are better maintained – all of which have quantifiable costs to them. Thus, there are more funds available to re-invest back into the housing association to more effectively maintain housing, build new homes, and to offer grants for community projects – activities that have a clear social value.
By measuring and evidencing social impact, housing associations can address some of the bad press. Many of the criticisms levelled at housing associations state that they have become too commercialised, losing sight of their community-facing ethos. We feel that these arguments show a lack of understanding of how housing associations work. The Guardian reported on how: in 2016/17 there were 22,858 affordable housing completions in England and only 597 were social rent, compared to 18,280 so-called “affordable rent”. However, they failed to understand that this was due to government policy, whereby there was simply no funding available for social rent. This is where the importance of measuring comes in. Providing data which evidences the social and economic outcomes of housing associations daily activities is key in reaffirming that they still adhere to their social mandates. If there was a readily available source of data about the social impact of housing associations then perhaps this would result in a greater understanding of their achievements.
One of the great things about housing associations is that they still reflect their founding ethos by wanting to show their social impact. Social outcomes are key in their mission to provide houses, bring people out of poverty, and improve the wellbeing of the communities in which they operate.
More and more the expectations of companies, including housing associations, is that they show their social impact, and are transparent about their corporate social responsibility strategies. Given the very nature of housing associations, this is something that they do particularly well.
Here at Impact Reporting, we are continually developing our social value reporting tool to enable housing associations to quantify their socially impactful activities and transform them into evidence-based data. We can identify the community impact, highlighting the value so that the organisation can leverage more funds, have confidence when presenting data to stakeholders and partners, and scale-up projects. Our tool was designed by housing associations for housing associations, so should you wish to learn more about the ways in which we can help track, monitor and report of your impact chat with us here.