To merge or not to merge…is that the question?

Chair Sinéad Butters latest blog comes after the news of the merger of L&Q, Hyde & East Thames.

“What a week it has been in housing. It seems it was ever thus! With so much going on and so many important issues hanging in the balance such as the future for Supported Housing and plans for Deregulation, it’s not unsurprising to see the latest headline stealer being merger activity, and the increasing sense that pressure is on to see a consolidated sector.

The PlaceShapers view is and always has been that size does not matter and that a diverse sector with locally focussed HAs as part of the mix is important. We know that many will agree with this – stakeholders, residents and politicians alike.  The big caveat of course is what you do within your communities.

Driving efficiencies, building more homes of all types of tenure, and delivering local added value services to support our communities are all part of what being a PlaceShaper means. Recent data showing PlaceShapers punch above our weight in building new homes while delivering massive community investment shows the importance of a diverse sector.

So does this latest announcement mean that merger is the answer?  What we believe is that it’s for Boards to decide.  Certainly it’s great to see the massive impact planned by the latest announcement and the focus on social purpose being retained.  Of course that is important because that is who we are, social purpose is our driving force, our reason for being.  But that doesn’t mean we cannot embrace the opportunity to do more, to build more homes of all tenures and drive the greatest benefit from our businesses to create the headroom to deliver much needed added value services  for our communities.

There is a lot of noise around at the moment about merger activity, maybe fuelled a little by the merger code and maybe as a result of planned rent reductions.  Some see it as an opportunity to have more clout in a given area, especially within a devolution agenda.  Others can generate real efficiencies from coming together, can complement skills and capacity and build more homes.  However, as with any sector, there are always advantages and disadvantages to merger activity, but it is the ethos, values and responsiveness to community needs that is the real question we should be answering.

Examples abound of successful and unsuccessful mergers.  Locally our experience has seen the loss of local capacity, energy and commitment to troubled areas as smaller orgs have been swallowed by the larger ones.  Disappointing especially when this area, like so many others, actually need more heads, hearts and hands to turn them around. But that doesn’t mean every merger is like that.

I love impact, scale, and doing more and more.  Who wouldn’t? Getting bigger, driving efficiencies, building more homes, tackling blight, supporting communities and recycling value into our neighbourhoods.  This is the job of a lifetime. > > So whatever our own organisations’ take on mergers, let’s congratulate our partners who are making successful impactful and truly responsive mergers work and decide for ourselves that whatever our size and capacity, striving to achieve the very most with what you have is really what matters.  And making a success of it.”