On 22 May 1964 eight professionals in Derby registered The Derwent Housing Association Limited as an Industrial and Provident Society at 8 The Strand, Derby. Their aim was to build and manage co-ownership housing without going into competition with local councils or the private sector.
Our 50th anniversary website www.derwentlivingat50.com tells the story of our organisation over the last half century. It pulls out some of the highlights and key developments against the backdrop of what was happening in the country as a whole decade by decade. It does emphasise that we have never been just about social housing. Rather we have been about the provision of affordable housing to suit a range of lifestyles. It is most unlikely that the founders could have predicted or imagined the way the organisation would develop.
As I looked over our story I was struck by how much we have had to change and adapt over time. It made me realise that innovation has been a key feature of Derwent’s life from its earliest days until the present. And as we plan for the future, we will continue to innovate.
More significantly we’re reminded about how our communication methods have been revolutionised over the years and about how customer expectations have changed. Our customer base is very sophisticated and rightly pushes us to perform better and better.
We live in uncertain times, although that has probably always been the case, and are beginning work on the business plan that will shape our operations through the years 2015-2017. We need to be able to get control of as much as we can and respond to those things that are beyond our control by being flexible.
It is clear though that we will continue to operate with little, if any, public funding. We have come to see ourselves as a truly private organisation with a social purpose. We have a commercial edge and use profits to provide affordable homes. The core business of meeting housing needs remains steadfast.
As we look forward to the next few years, how can we change to best meet the needs of our customers? Projections suggest that by 2033 housing associations will be responsible for housing a fifth of the UK population. With that massive responsibility is the obligation to become more efficient, using new technologies to deliver improving services and to reduce costs.
We may not be able to see where we will be in 50 years’ time, but our history encourages us to be confident that we have the skills, experience and energy to make a success of the challenges we face. We’re also enthusiastic about the National Housing Federation’s vision of the future, An Ambition to Deliver, which has been developed in partnership with housing providers up and down the country.