Housing 2021 — our first event in two years

Ben Andrews

Ben Andrews, Business Development Manager

Last week the UK housing sector gathered in Manchester for Housing 2021, an industry conference held by the Chartered Institute of Housing each year. My colleague Helen Bradley and I were amongst the 6,000 attendees and exhibited on behalf of FFBS. Here’s how we found it…

Helen Bradley and Ben Andrews at the FFBS stall
Ben and Helen at the FFBS stand. Masks were put back on after the photo was taken.

Back to reality

From the kitchen table where I’ve spent most working days of late, to a conference centre buzzing with staff and exhibitors – a shock to the system but highly anticipated return to the world of events we’ve missed. No webinars or Zoom calls in sight; it was to be our first in-person event in almost two years and we were simultaneously excited to chat to delegates face to face and wary of making sure everyone felt comfortable in this new-but-not-new environment.

It felt great to be out and back to a “new normal” and we spent three busy days gathering free pens speaking with delegates about our services and attending a handful of the many talks on offer. A favourite seminar of mine was by Lorraine McLaren, Director at the Wheatley Foundation, who explained how they mobilised to support communities across Scotland during the pandemic. Their impact is a testament to their desire to look after those in need and one many of us at FFBS can understand and appreciate.

A collective dream

The industry’s desire to support struggling families and communities was clear across the whole conference, but so were the challenges many organisations have faced. Providing affordable and flexible housing and support to tenants has been harder than ever and listening to the presentations made me so proud of the work of FFBS to support housing organisations in their mission. As Polly Neate, CEO of Shelter, noted, Martin Luther King didn’t say “We have a problem”. The dream of affordable, comfortable housing for all may not have been realised, but there’s certainly lots being done to get there.

Whilst a great opportunity to meet existing and potential clients, these events also offer a chance to get inspired by the work of individuals and other organisations in the industry. As we move forward, I’m excited to see in-person events become commonplace once again. As Gavin Smart, CEO of CIH, put it during his keynote speech: “the conference feels very familiar, but also very new”. I think that sums it up perfectly, and I look forward to seeing you at the next one!

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