One hundred years after the Addison Act, we must offer homes in a variety of tenures

Thrive Homes is turning itself into a business halfway between a traditional housing association and a professional landlord underpinned by ethics, writes Elspeth Mackenzie.

The 100th anniversary of the Addison Act was marked on 31 July. The act paved the way for a council housebuilding revolution that transformed access to housing for generations.

Thrive Homes exists today because of the Addison Act. Born out of a stock transfer, we’re now a leading housing association delivering good-quality homes to people in need, and house over 10,500 residents across Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire.

While the housing sector looks radically different today, the challenges we face are similar to those faced 100 years ago: the Addison Act was a direct response to the huge demand for housing for working-class people in towns throughout Britain, following the end of World War I.

And today in the communities that Thrive serves, it’s the working families and young professionals that are suffering from our housing crisis.

In south-west Hertfordshire we receive an average of 44 bids for every home that becomes available for letting, whilst in the same area an average price for an outright sale is more than £400,000 – meaning that both social rent and homeownership are out of reach for many in our communities.   

As the market continues to change and evolve, it’s now the turn for housing associations to make the most of the challenges – and opportunities – that we face; providing homes to meet local demand, whilst keeping sight of our social conscience and our fundamental purpose – to provide quality, safe and affordable homes.

For Thrive that means diversifying our business model and refocusing our homes and services where they are needed most. At a practical level, it means rising to tackle the housing crisis in all its forms – offering homes at different price points to people at different stages of their life, who may not be able buy their own home.

For us this change is seismic. We’re no longer “Registered Providers” delivering solely affordable homes. We’re modern landlords who provide quality homes and secure tenancies that enable our customers to build and sustain good lives.

For Thrive, this is an exciting new era, as we begin to position ourselves as a business which lies between a traditional housing association and a professional landlord underpinned by ethics.

We will, of course, continue to do what we have always done at our heart – provide affordable social housing. This alongside other housing products – including market rent – within our portfolio mix allows us to better meet the growing, diverse housing need in the communities we serve.

This shift will operate in parallel with our growth ambitions, which currently involve building around 150 homes – a mix of social affordable rent and shared ownership – each year. But we can’t deliver this alone. Our development programme is leading us to forge new partnerships and joint ventures with external partners who share our values and vision – delivering together, to meet our local demand.

Delivering the homes and services our communities need means we must continue to deliver on the promise of our social purpose by defying traditional pigeonholes, just as the Addison Act did for councils in 1919.

This post was originally published by Inside Housing on 6th August 2019.