Fiona Fletcher-Smith tells conference she wants to return housing association to traditional model and ‘put residents first’

L&Q is exploring the sale of its private rental properties and strategic land company in an effort to ‘put residents first’, the housing association’s chief executive has revealed. 

Speaking yesterday at the UKREIIF conference in Leeds, on a panel on the shortfall in supply of social housing, Fiona Fletcher-Smith explained that she did not see the functions as being core to the 109,000-home provider’s mission. 

(c) UKREiiF - Registration Crowds  (9)


Fiona Fletcher-Smith was speaking at the third annual UKREIIF conference in Leeds

“We are putting our own house in order, and I think the innovative thing I am doing is taking us back to a traditional housing association where your residents come first and then you build,” she told a packed room of delegates. 

“We are in the market at the minute with the PRS, our commercial portfolio, we are in the market, we are about to do a deal on our strategic land company” 

Asked by the panel chair whether this meant they were up for sale, she confirmed that they were. 

“They’re not core, they’re commercial activities that we bolted on over the years that don’t make sense anymore,” she continued.  

“So, they will help us to generate more capital. They will help declutter us, make us attractive to the rating agencies again, so we’re not as complicated.” 

When these comments were put to the housing association, a spokesperson responded with a statement which said: “One in 23 children in London are homeless, and there is a significant need for new social housing to meet the scale of this crisis.  

“In the absence of a long term government plan for housing that delivers the funding our sector needs, L&Q – like all housing providers – is exploring opportunities to generate additional financial capacity to invest in affordable housing.  

“As part of this, we keep our non-core social housing activity under regular review but no final decisions have been taken.” 

>>See also: L&Q reports trebling of surplus – but this could be reduced by impairment charges

>>See also: Exclusive: Clarion announces ‘ambitious’ restructure to improve housing management

>>See also: In search of a magic patch size: How social landlords are rethinking their housing management approaches

Most of the £1bn-turnover organisation’s private rented properties are managed by L&Q PRS Co Limited, which, according to the most recent accounts, had a portfolio of 2,724 homes and generated an operating margin of 58%. 

The association has previously said L&Q Estates controls strategic land capable of potentially delivering more than 76,000 new homes nationwide, enabling the provider to operate as a master developer. 

L&Q is the second housing association giant in recent weeks to announce it is looking at changes to enable it to focus more on existing residents. Clarion, which owns and manages 125,000 homes, earlier this month announced it is planning a radical restructure to focus on improved housing management and customer service.

Clarion chief executive Clare Miller, writing exclusively for Housing Today, said: “We will restructure some parts of Clarion to put more resources in key priority areas, but it will demand significant savings elsewhere in the group.”