PlaceShapers and Magna team in Portland

Annual Review

A Word from our Chair 

There are a lot of people that give their time, effort and money to the work that PlaceShapers does. As I sit writing this and reflecting on the year gone by, and the challenges ahead, I find myself asking the question – is it worth it?

Customers are still struggling with the cost-of-living crisis, the housing ‘crisis’ is as prevalent as ever across the country and the economic challenges facing housing associations are probably even greater than 12 months ago.

Then I think about what we’ve actually been busy doing: 

Matthew WalkerMatthew-Signature
  • Providing help to members through toolkits so that customers are better informed to deal with issues of mould and damp and more likely to engage with energy efficiency planned works. 
  • Speaking up in rooms that most individual PlaceShapers wouldn’t ordinarily have access to, to ensure that place-making, the voice of our customers and the work that our members do and the impact it has is heard loud and clear, including providing evidence at the select committee hearing on the financial stability of the housing association sector.  
  • Providing multiple forums for PlaceShapers and other like-minded organisations to share their knowledge, approach and views on the topics of the moment, whether that’s our Annual Conference showcasing members work or short notice sessions dealing with individual issues like the approach people are taking to mould and damp or rent setting levels.
  • Collecting and using examples of what PlaceShapers do to support national campaigns we believe in, like ensuring politicians of all parties understand the impact the cost-of-living crisis on local communities.

In all the above work, we have sought to ensure that what we do does not duplicate the work of other national or regional networks. Where on occasion our interests or plans do overlap, we have formed partnerships with those organisations to share the work and multiply our impact. We are very conscious of the financial challenges faced by members and want to ensure what we offer provides value for money. 

The impact of all the above work is that customers are helped by being better informed and through shared learning PlaceShapers members are better able to address the challenges they face. Those making decisions that affect us all are influenced by what our members are doing - we have used local member stories for national impact. 

Having reflected on the above, I find myself feeling pleased but not satisfied. Pleased because it is clear to me that what we are doing is having an impact for good, furthering our members interests and priorities and helping improve the quality their customers lives. At the same time I am not satisfied because there are still so many challenges, some of which we know about, and if the last few years are anything to go by, some of which we do not yet know about. PlaceShapers can, and will do more to help.  

So, in conclusion, thank you for however you have helped the work of PlaceShapers – we really could not do what we do without the collective support of everyone involved. We will continue to do everything we can to make sure that place-making is at the heart of decision-making and I find myself compelled to say – yes – it is absolutely worth the time and effort. 

Matthew Walker, Chair

Team at CKH

Our Year 

As Matthew has noted this year has been another challenging year for our members, with the ongoing cost-of-living crisis and increasing pressures on business plans. As well as supporting members to overcome these challenges, we have sought to ensure stakeholders and politicians understand and reflect them in their work. Amplifying the voice of our members and their residents is the best way to get our message across about the value and contribution of place-based housing associations, so this was a key focus for us again this year. 

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With the support of our members this year we have:

  • Been the voice of place-shaping housing associations in the national debate.  
  • Supported our members to deliver their place-shaping ambitions.
  • Amplified the voice of social housing residents. 

Being the voice of place-shaping housing associations in the national debate 

We have strengthened our relationship with the Labour housing team to ensure they understand the contribution place-based housing associations can make to the housing crisis and broader problems facing the country. We met Matthew Pennycook in the summer and attended a roundtable with Angela Rayner later in the year. These relationships will stand us in good stead for this general election year.  

The Levelling Up Select Committee inquiry into the finances and sustainability of the social housing sector is an important opportunity to build an understanding of the challenges facing our members. We submitted written evidence to the inquiry and a number of our members gave oral evidence. It was clear from his speech at our Annual Conference that Clive Betts MP, the chair of the committee, has an excellent grasp of the issues place-based housing associations face. We look forward to seeing the recommendations from that committee.  

Regeneration is a key element of place-shaping and a priority for our members. We strongly welcomed the flexibility introduced by Homes England to allow funding through the Affordable Homes Programme to be spent on regenerating existing homes. We shared examples from members on schemes that could go ahead with this flexibility and the difference it would make to communities, which helped drive this positive change.  

Amplifying the voice of members, allowing them to talk directly about their priorities and challenges, is a powerful way of showing the commitment and impact of place-based housing associations. So, we were delighted that Claire Higgins, our Vice Chair, had an essay included in Home Advantage, created by Bright Blue and Shelter. We have also had articles and blogs published in Inside Housing and Social Housing magazine, such as pieces from our board members Kate Wareing and David Cummins.  

Supporting our members to deliver their place-shaping ambitions 

Our networks, open to all our members, went from strength to strength this year, providing members the opportunity to learn from each other and hear from experts who can support them through their challenges. This year the networks heard from Homes England and Fiona MacGregor and Jonathan Walters at the Regulator of Social Housing (RSH), among others, and talked about issues from handling complaints to biodiversity.  

Our Annual Conference this year, free to attend for all our members, was packed full of contributions from important stakeholders, and members talking about the work they do to improve their communities and the lives of their residents.  

Our regular meetings with the RSH ensured members were able to talk directly to a key stakeholder for the sector, which proved invaluable in this period of significant regulatory change. We have also implemented quarterly meetings with the Housing Ombudsman, allowing us to provide feedback on their work. It is a reflection of our relationship with both stakeholders that they spoke at our Annual Conference this year.  

This year we launched our new Communications Library for members. This is a one stop shop for free guidance on important and topical issues, such as best practice in rent communications, communicating with residents on energy efficiency work (Heartwarming Homes) and our brilliant resources on damp and mould (Healthy Homes).  

With life finally getting back to normal the team have been finding out first-hand how our members are going beyond housing in their local area. The more we understand the work of our members in their communities, the better able we are to advocate on their behalf in all our work with politicians and stakeholders.  

We were also pleased to welcome Magna, Moat and RHP to the PlaceShapers network this year.  

Amplifying the voice of social housing residents

Residents will always be at the heart of everything we do at PlaceShapers. They were on a number of the panels at our Annual Conference and were key speakers in our webinars and other events.  The events we hosted in partnership with our members with the RSH on the consultation on the new consumer standards gave residents a strong and direct voice in shaping the final standards. Resident input was central to the development of both the Healthy Homes and Heartwarming Homes toolkits, and they continue to collaborate with us to advocate for a resident-centred approach to all of our work.  

We have been working with members to tell the stories of how the increased cost-of-living is affecting residents and the support provided by housing associations. We were relieved to see the announcement that the government will restore the Local Housing Allowance to the 30th percentile of private rents in April. This will help some private renters stay in their home and may help ease the increase in families becoming homeless. This is something we, and our members, have been campaigning for, including through our work with the Joseph Rowntree Foundation

PlaceShapers Team

Our Chief Executive shares our plans for the future 

It is hard to believe that I am coming to the end of my first year at PlaceShapers. For me this year has been about getting to know our members, building on the strong foundations and relationships already in place at PlaceShapers, and setting out our plans for the future.  

Our work over the last year was shaped by the issues that mattered the most to our members. This included publishing tools and resources to support members and continuing to push for solutions to the cost-of-living crisis that still impacts deeply on social housing residents.

Views and input from residents were central to our work last year, as they will be in the future. Never was this more evident than in the sessions we ran with the RSH to ensure resident voices were heard loud and clear in the consultation on the new consumer standards.   

My highlight of the last year was our Annual Conference in November. It showcased the brilliant and often ground-breaking work our members do to collaborate with residents in different ways to tackle the important challenges of the day. It definitely delivered on our ambition to facilitate learning and share good practice across our membership.

I am delighted that we published our new Strategic Plan in the summer of last year, setting out how we are going to further our vision of putting place-shaping at the heart of decision making. This plan will guide what we do over the next three years, working closely with our members to:

The general election will, of course, be a big focus of our work this year and our aim is to build the relationships we need to ensure place-based housing associations are seen as key delivery partners of the next government. We have already made a good start by strengthening our relationships with our stakeholders, including Homes England, the Housing Ombudsman, and the Regulator of Social Housing, being a key voice in select committees and debates, and meeting with the top team in Labour.     

I remain deeply impressed by the work place-based housing associations do across the country. With the continuing support and input from our members, I am determined that we will look back on this election year as a time when we really put the work of our members on the map. 


Catherine Ryder, Chief Executive


Why members choose PlaceShapers

Membership of PlaceShapers is an important and vital resource for housing organisations. Working together to discover best practice for delivering services makes a difference to individuals, local communities and nationally.

Clare Jones, Resident

Coastline Housing

Having access to and working with Placeshapers (and in particular the Development Forum) gives a great opportunity to share experiences, ideas and innovations with other similar organisations.

Chris Weston , Director of Development & Commercial Services


PlaceShapers gives us the opportunity to work with other place based organisations, sharing ideas and learning from other members and ultimately harnessing our local connections to lobby on key issues felt by our residents.

Anna Klimczak , Chief Executive Officer

Brighter Places

As a vehicle for change, Placeshapers successfully brings together the collective voices of housing providers across the country and champions causes important to our customers in a much more powerful way than we could do as individuals.

Mark Pearson, Managing Director

54North Homes