Housing 2024 Round Up.

Original Article
June 28th, 2024


This week, we were excited to attend Housing 2024 from 25-27th June at Manchester Central. Europe’s largest housing festival proved to be another action-packed event, with talks from industry leaders, interactive workshops and product launches.

As the event began on Tuesday, the doors were opened ready to welcome more than 9,000 attendees over the course of three days. We saw several familiar faces at the Sava stand (a fully sustainable exhibition stand by Quadrant2Design) and many new ones looking to find out more about how Sava can contribute to the sector-wide efforts to improve building safety and housing quality in the UK (enticed, of course, by the promise of a free Curly Wurly).

Throughout the exhibition hall, several busy conference stages held industry talks covering the most pressing issues in housing, with the idea of holistic, proactive and preventative maintenance strategies one of the prevailing topics.

This year’s keynote speech was delivered by Manchester Mayor, Andy Burnham, who proclaimed in no uncertain terms that he believes 2024 will be a big, positive turning point for housing on a national level. He stressed the need for a comprehensive housing strategy that looks at housing as a whole, rather than addressing market issues in isolation, and his speech touched on two significant issues pervading the social housing sector – building safety and housing quality – reiterating that no one should be renting out properties that could cause harm and damage tenants’ health.

Burnham’s talk set the scene for Sava’s attendance at the event as we officially launched our new suite of Level 4 qualifications for social housing professionals, to help address the ‘bricks and mortar’ skills shortages in the sector. The event also provided the perfect setting to celebrate the return of EPC data retrieval, two and a half years after the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) suspended our ability to retrieve RdSAP data from accreditation schemes.

Over the three-day event, the Sava team attended a range of insightful sessions delivered by industry leaders and shared some of their personal highlights.

  1. ‘Digging into Property Data to Deliver Carbon and Cost Savings’
    An engaging session with speakers from CIBSE, CHIC, Metis and, most notably, Arturo Dell from Convene ESG who discussed the importance of good data when requesting access to finance, and how the Sustainability Reporting Standard (SRS) will help organisations to access finance within the sector.

  2. ‘Our New Energy System and Zero Bill Homes’
    Delivered by Nigel Banks, Technical Director at Octopus Energy, this talk explained how, by utilising air source heat pumps, domestic storage batteries and solar panels, new build properties can go bill-free for 10 years. New builds were mentioned specifically due to the space needed to install solar panels. Octopus’ first ‘zero bill home’ was launched in 2022.

  3. ‘Integrating Retrofit Within Strategic Asset Management’
    In this discussion, a panel of housing providers and property managers explored how, with limited resources, it could be possible to bring together the siloed strands of damp and mould, energy efficiency and building safety under one programme of property works.

    Liz Davenport, Property Sustainability Manager at Anchor, explained that homes below SAP band C are peppered across their stock, so targeting these properties to retrofit is a challenging strategic issue that they are now trying to overcome by introducing brand-new delivery teams, integrating with energy modelling software, refreshing stock condition data for more than 80% of their stock and carrying out 13,000 new EPCs.

    Leon Storer, Director of Technical Services at Ark, commented that creating new teams is all well and good, but in his experience, teams do not always work efficiently with other departments, so strategic plans can often remain unsuccessful. He also discussed the importance of knowing your data and commented that cloned EPCs don’t fill anyone with confidence. On the subject of carbon reduction, Leon suggested that decarbonisation/sustainability teams need to work with the wider organisation and align their plans with existing projects to make investments worthwhile.

  4. ‘Pioneering Innovation – Doing Radically Different Things at North Star Housing Group’
    In this session, housing association, North Star, and tech consultancy, Waterstons shone a light on North Star’s technology-led approach to innovation. They discussed how the Silicon Valley adage, “move fast and break things” is no more – it’s now a case of “move fast and fix things (and have fun)”. The partnership between North Star and Waterstons is enabling them to achieve their ambitions through use of AI, robotics, Amazon Key access to flats and IoT sensors throughout the home. They are even considering using robots to carry out PV maintenance.

    Key takeaways for any business include creating a culture where it is okay to suggest a bad idea rather than saying there are none, and that good ideas can come from anyone, not just technical staff.

    The Waterstons presenters were infectiously enthusiastic and also suggested that a great way to sort ideas is to plant them on a graph of excitement vs. value and pursue those that score the highest on both axes.

  5. ‘Improving existing homes though joined up policy, strategy and funding’
    Once again, the topic of siloed working was broached as leaders of three housing organisations came together to share their views on how organisations can take a more holistic, consistent and collaborative approach to improving their housing stock.  

    Phil Andrew, Chief Executive at Orbit Group, explained that with limited funds available, it’s important to be realistic about what can be done with them. At Orbit, they are focused on significantly improving tenant satisfaction and are working to the assumption that there will be no more funding available than they have already secured. Their strategy is to get the basics right within their housing stock before they move onto more complicated improvement measures, and to move away from being reactionary to a place of prevention and predictability.

    Jacqueline De-Rose at Progress Housing Group shared their vision to ensure everyone has a place to call home and is able to live their best life. She explained that the Progress way is to always put the tenant first and prioritise those most at risk. Like Orbit Group, Progress is striving to become more proactive as reactionary activity draws funds away from planned improvements.

    Kate Smith, CEO at Connexus, described the challenges of managing a stock of more than 10,000 rural homes where the average year of construction is 1959 and 52% are below SAP band D. She explained there is a balance between investing in existing stock and building new homes. Connexus’ aim is simple – to improve their homes to make them enjoyable places to live. The reality, they say, is more complex. It is difficult to retrofit properties without moving tenants to other homes, which are also difficult to find with eight times more people on rural waiting lists than urban lists). To ensure they achieve their aim, Connexus is now taking a more holistic view of regeneration and repair, and is bringing teams and trades in house.

As well as working hard, the Sava team also played hard and sponsored Housing Rocks on Tuesday evening. It provided a well-needed opportunity to let our hair down and enjoy some karaoke hits with a live band. All proceeds go to the More Than Homes Campaign who Sava are delighted to support.

The final day offered one last opportunity to claim some exciting merch from exhibitors (big thanks to Octopus Energy for the growing army of pink octopus plushies taking over the Sava office), to catch the remaining talks and wave goodbye to Housing for another year.

Thanks to the Housing team for organising another unmissable event and, of course, to everyone who attended and made Housing 2024 a resounding success.