Social’s Impact Chat with Maggie Rafalowicz
In our latest Impact Chat, Social Invest Director, Luke Cross, spoke to Maggie Rafalowicz, Director at Campbell Tickell.
Maggie has more than 30 years of experience in the housing sector including a decade at the London Borough of Brent, The Housing Corporation and leading housing consultancy Campbell Tickell.
Below are some key takeaways from the discussion.
The sector faces its biggest challenge in decades
Social Invest’s conversation with Maggie comes amid a difficult time for the sector as it continues to deal with issues relating to disrepair, damp and mould.
This is the latest in a long list of challenges the sector is currently facing, including net zero, fire safety and developing more homes.
These pressures have been compounded by years of underinvestment by government with steadily declining grant rates.
As Maggie says: “Right now, it is the most challenging period I can recall in 30 years”.
Now is the time to invest in existing homes
Maggie explains that while addressing the housing crisis through development of new homes is necessary, more must be done on existing stock.
She says: “I think we are coming to the age now where we need more investment into stock.
“Housing associations traditionally had this sheen around them, that there homes are better [than local authority housing] but we are findgin that this is not necessarily the case.”
Landlords must keep working on their relationship with government
The sector’s failings have been well documented over the last year and this has put a strain on its relationship with government. Secretary of state, Michael Gove, has threatened to pull funding from HAs that are not providing an adequate service.
With this in mind, Maggie suggests the relationship between HAs and government must be continually monitored.
As she notes: “Governments change and so does their relationship to the sector.”
There is room for all types of HAs
As traditional social landlords find themselves under increasing financial pressure, the sector has seen an influx of for-profit providers over the last few years.
These for-profits have, at times, been met with scepticism but these organisation are now becoming more established within the sector.
Now, Maggie says, the prevailing attitude towards for-profits is changing and people are more welcoming to them.
“I think people have become more comfortable with working together. When resources are tight, there’s a place for partnerships based on trust.”
More homes for social rent are needed
On the topic of traditional HAs and for-profits working together, Maggie suggests this dynamic could be used to provide more social rent homes.
For-profits are often backed by institutional investment and provide a steady return on investment whereas traditional HAs reinvest their profits of ‘surplus’ into building more homes. The extraction of profits from the sector has, at times, caused some cause for concern but it is becoming evident that this model can help produce more homes.
For instance, Blackstone-backed Sage Housing produced the most new build affordable homes in 2021-22.
Despite being different models, these for-profit providers must still complete the rigorous registration process with the Regulator of Social Housing and are regulated in the same way as traditional HAs.
Maggie says she hopes the combination of for-profit capital and traditional HA knowledge can help produce “some kind of partnership that would allow lower rents”.
She adds: “The opportunity for new supply with a range of tenures is something I’d love to see.!
Watch the Impact Chat in full here.