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Joe Bradbury looks at the challenges and opportunities for housing associations in 2022

2021 is over - a year marked by huge issues that few of us could have envisioned. As we bravely move forward into the New Year, what mindset must we adopt to acheive success? Housing Association Magazine's Joe Bradbury discusses:

A year of material and labour shortages, coupled with supply chain instability, has left many of us bruised and battered.

Understandably, this leads many of us to feel anxious about the challenges that will undeniably arise as 2022 unfolds.

There is, however, much to be enthusiastic about, as the new year also brings with it opportunites.

A worldwide crisis in the form of a pandemic has sparked change; hopefully reform and creativity will increase over the coming 12 months as we put some of the lessons we have learned from navigating COVID-19 into practice.

The government should extend the Salix deadline to accommodate supply issues

Joe Bradbury Joe Bradbury Digital editor of Housing Association magazine

Demand at an all-time high

Demand for housing is higher than ever!

Of course, this is fantastic news for construction industry professionals, but there is still a long way to go!

The worldwide housing and construction boom, which was fueled in part by the pent-up demand created by the epidemic's early uncertain months, paradoxically worsened material shortages in 2021.

The UK government's stay-at-home mandates resulted in increased consumer buying, selling, and hence expenditure on larger houses and home modifications as people battled to make space in their homes for both work and personal life.

While this was undoubtedly exciting for the housing sectors, it did present difficulties for builders in obtaining materials, and many UK firms were sadly unable to meet such demand.

Due to increasingly tight supply chains, several builders have been unable to complete projects on time. This is having significant influence on the number of homes that the United Kingdom is able to construct.

So, while having a high demand is excellent, we must work together and assist one another across all sectors of the construction industry in order to create a built environment that is suitable for 2022 and beyond; efficiently and effectively.

Funding is available

The first phase of the SALIX funding for 2022 has been announced as coming into effect at the end of March. Whilst this may not be accessible to Housing Associations, it will be made available to councils.

The Salix Energy Efficiency Fund (SEEF), delivered by Salix in partnership with the Department for Education (DfE), pledges to improve energy efficiency, reduce carbon emissions and lower energy bills for organisations in the public sector.

This funding has achieved great things. As of March 2020, Salix has funded over 18,700 projects with over 3,100 public sector bodies, valued at £971 million. This is estimated to save the public sector over £203m million and reduce public sector carbon dioxide emissions by 867,000 tonnes annually.

Unfortunately, heat pump and other renewable manufacturers are also hit too by supply shortages, meaning that there are many projects earmarked for completion before the deadline that won’t be able to access the products in time.

This leads many in the industry to believe that the government should extend the deadline on this, to accommodate for the fact that the supply of products has been hit hard and continues to be hit as a direct result to their reactions regarding the pandemic.

We must be open to change

The construction industry's skills shortfall worsened in 2021. Brexit, COVID-stressed supply networks and increased demand for more homes have all compounded existing supply issues.

Not only does this have implications for the housebuilding  sector, but it also has implications for the country as a whole. Increased wage expectations, longer project delivery dates, and an increasing number of empty positions at companies are all indicators that the problem is getting worse.

The government's long-awaited Heat and Buildings Strategy was finally released in 2021, marking a watershed moment for the construction industry.

As the UK pursues its target of net-zero emissions by 2050, the strategy displayed a clear recognition that the built environment will play a critical role in the next stage of its decarbonisation effort.

While the plan is far from perfect (it needs a national retrofit strategy and a precise plan for training and retraining employees), there is much to be optimistic about, including a clearer path to low-carbon heating.

In summary

As previously stated, there will be many challenges ahead... yet there will also be tremendous opportunities. Following a year of preparation for COP26, considerably greater focus will be placed on sustainability as we move into 2022.

To accelerate the inevitable move away from carbon-heavy practices, the building industry will need to be adaptable and eager to use the new sustainable materials and technology at their disposables.

2022... it's an exciting time!

Joe Bradbury is digital editor of Housing Association magazine