In Conversation with… Geeta Nanda

Geeta Nanda

Geeta Nanda

There’s a plethora of leading figures in the property, investment, finance and charity sectors who we’re regularly in conversation with, many of whom are guest authors for PRSupdate – and here we share more about them, their roles, priorities and backgrounds. If you would like to feature in this series, or to suggest someone who might, please get in touch through our contact us page or let us know on twitter.

Why not take a lucky dip into our In Conversation archives and discover:

Today we speak with Geeta Nanda (CEO of Thames Valley Housing Association) who will be the ‘Featured Article’ author in our forthcoming January PRSupdate newsletter.

Geeta, can you tell us a little about your background?

My first proper job was as a graduate trainee in Wandsworth council where I started in the Housing Department. They then moved me into the finance department and I decided I had the bug for Housing! I have done a whole variety of jobs in Housing; from property management to new business development, regeneration and research and policy, all in London Housing Associations.I came to Thames Valley Housing in April 2008 as CEO and in 2012 we launched FizzyLiving as our PRS subsidiary.

Since 1989 I have been involved in some capacity as a Trustee of either a HA Board or a charity. I have just finished my 6 year stint as a Trustee of SCOPE, a disability charity and am about to start with St Mungo’s a homelessness charity. I am passionate about Housing and the right for people to have a decent home.

For those who may not know, can you briefly explain what Thames Valley Housing Association does?

Thames Valley Housing provides homes predominantly in the West and South-West of London, Berkshire and Surrey. TVH was formed in 1966 and now own or manage around 15,000 homes. We are an incredibly diverse Housing Association; we are one of the largest shared ownership providers in the country and have formed a joint venture with Galliford Try, Opal Land LLP, to build homes for market sale.

TVH has a real specialism and understanding for housing those in the intermediate market. We invest heavily in community organisations that can work in our neighbourhoods and with our tenants, and we endeavor to help our tenants into employment. In 2012, TVH was awarded What House Housing Association of the year, and in 2013 FizzyLiving won the RESI Award for Best Newcomer.

What are your thoughts on the current level of housing stock?

We all know that we are not building enough homes and the situation is getting worse. The situation is particularly bad for the younger generation and even more so for those whose parents don’t have equity in their homes that they can pass on. We desperately need to build more affordable housing and market housing to meet the growing population and the deal with the changing household composition. We also need to deal with the older people housing crisis that is growing.

What steps should the Government take to improve housing stock?

There is no quick fix solution and so the answers need to be long term and we need to have stability in housing policy that works over successive government terms. There is a real opportunity now to bring institutional investors into the PRS to fund more homes than that are in the pipeline, and the government has been proactive in making that happen since the Montague review. We also need to be strategic about urban extensions, green belt building and infrastructure.

A proper regional strategy needs to be considered so that we ensure everything is not based around London. Bringing forward land within the public sector as a whole and clarity around how housing takes priority over best value for land price is also essential.

The quickest win would be allowing Local Authorities to borrow significantly or to focus the various property tax income on new supply. One of the problems we are facing now is that so many skills and capacity were taken out the industry over the last few years, and now that we are building up supply we don’t have enough to deal with what is required, and that is why we all want policies that ensure delivery over the long term.

What are the reasons behind Thames Valley’s expansion into the Private Rented Sector?

We saw that the market was moving, that those who would normally buy our shared ownership homes were renting for longer. The previous offer in the PRS was poor and if people are going to rent for longer they deserve something better.

TVH wanted to use our development and management skills to deliver something that people wanted to rent, that they talked to their friends about and that made them proud to say they were renters. We wanted to ensure that this model would be attractive to investors so that we could bring in additional money to provide additional homes, and help create a new sector. The profits from FizzyLiving will be invested in our affordable homes programme. Everyone wins; new homes, great service and profits reinvested in more housing.

What differences have you seen between the Social Housing Sector and the Private Rented Sector?

In the social housing sector people rent for a long time. With the housing shortage and the changes that are coming about, the time people stay in their homes is growing all the time and turnover is very small. Those housed often have a variety of vulnerabilities and the support needs are greater.

The Local Authority is involved in who is housed and the HA has a limited say. Properties built must meet design standards set by the GLA or HCA.

On the other hand, the PRS turnaround is faster, more people move about and often this will be a temporary home. However, there are similarities if you are in it for the long term. Properties need maintaining, services need to be accessible online and outside of office hours and properties need to be fit for purpose. I mean everyone wants decent storage! There is a lot that can be learnt from each sector but adapted to suit the tenants. Lots of those in the PRS also have vulnerability or would like a long term tenancy and everyone wants good service tailored to their needs.

What do you believe 2014 will hold for both Social Housing and Private Rental?

In the social sector, the ground rules for the next affordable programme have been set and everyone will be deciding on the size, what they will build, and where. We should see a steady increase in new homes from this. However, the impact of welfare reform will begin to really pan out and all the assumptions that have been made can be tested against reality. Many providers may decide to do less but ensure the rents and the property size work for those who need it.

Shared ownership will continue to flourish; it is the only way those on lower incomes who can’t access Help To Buy in expensive areas can get on the property ladder. It is essential we get support for more shared ownership. In the PRS, some big investors will come into play and so the build to rent model will take hold. Some of the early innovators will have schemes coming off site and we will see the market taking off. Some of those UK potential investors will bite the bullet and come into the market.

Finally, do you have a favourite London landmark?

The Royal Albert Hall, when I first went in and watched a performance it took my breath away.

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