Our Strategic Plan 2020-2023

Our new Strategic Plan sets out our areas of focus for the next three years and helps us to fulfill our purpose.

With South Yorkshire Housing Association you can settle at home, live well and realise your potential.
We want your experience with us to be a joy.

We plan to be here for the long-term and we want everything we do to be sustainable.

Our six themes

Our Strategic Plan sets out six themes for the next three years that will help us deliver on our purpose. We will pivot our resources – our financial capacity, our homes, our services, and our people – to deliver on these areas of focus.

In deciding how best to deliver our purpose in the next three years, we have looked at how our strengths could be used to overcome our weaknesses, address threats in the external environment, and exploit the opportunities around us. This has led us to our six themes:

For each theme we have set out:
  • why this matters to us
  • what we plan to do in the next three years
At the end of the plan, we’ve also identified our initial interventions and the impact we want to achieve.

None of these themes operate in isolation: they all hang together, and many of our interventions will deliver on more than one of the strategic themes. For example, enabling customers to communicate and transact online sits in a digital, data-driven and agile business. However, it is also a key enabler for Doing the basics brilliantly and for Developing our relationships with our customers.

This is an important feature of our new Strategic Plan and marks a change from previous plans: we have drawn all the themes together to deliver on our purpose, and every intervention will support at least two of the strategies. In this way we will maximise the impact across all themes. To illustrate this better, we have grouped the impacts together at the end of the plan.

This change will mean a different, more agile way of working. Instead of teams within departments being tasked to deliver the interventions, we will expect our people to work collaboratively across themes to deliver on our purpose.

Local people and communities need housing associations more than ever. The capacity of councils and voluntary organisations has been cut back through austerity economics.

New housebuilding starts increased in 2019, but the figure for new homes is falling once again. As a country, we are nowhere near building enough homes, including enough homes for affordable and social rent, to keep up with rising demand.

The Government’s announcement of an additional £34bn for the NHS is indeed welcome, but systemic problems persist, particularly around the lack of integration and new funding for health and social care services, as well as delays in key policy decisions.

As the largest housing association based in the Sheffield City Region, South Yorkshire Housing Association is in good shape to collaborate with partners to tackle these issues. We expect to engage actively with, and influence, the government’s agenda – both in terms of redressing the historic imbalance of investment in the North, and following through on both the spirit and letter of the forthcoming social housing white paper.

We cannot achieve this ambitious plan without collaborating with all our partners, suppliers and contractors. We look forward to working with the government, the mayor and the City Region, local authorities and health organisations to promote good housing and wellbeing for everyone.

In particular, we will work with our partners to come up with effective solutions to the climate crisis. The future growth and evolution of our services must be sustainable in every respect; they must work for the environment, for our organisation and for local people.

We are determined to ensure that we keep getting the basics right. This applies to addressing homelessness and acute housing needs, ensuring our customers receive the highest quality of services from us, and that we reframe the landlord–tenant relationship. In all our work, we will use a co-design and strengths-based approach wherever there is an opportunity to work with our customers in this way.

This is an important feature of our new Strategic Plan and marks a change from previous plans: we have drawn all the themes together to deliver on our purpose, and every intervention will support at least two of the strategies. In this way we will maximise the impact across all themes. To illustrate this better, we have grouped the impacts together at the end of the plan.

This change will mean a different, more agile way of working. Instead of teams within departments being tasked to deliver the interventions, we will expect our people to work collaboratively across themes to deliver on our purpose.

Theme 1: Developing our relationships with our customers


Our customers are at the heart of what we do – it’s why we are here. Our customers matter to our people. We want to be trusted and doing the basics brilliantly will go a long way to forge that trust but on its own it’s not enough. Changes in our customers’ lives, and in how we run our business, are reducing the face-to-face contact with our customers whilst potentially increasing other opportunities to hear from them. Our relationships need to be stronger than ever; our work needs to have real impact.


Over the last five years we have led the field in co-production in LiveWell. We want now to do more co-creation and co-delivery across all our services. Our customers feed back their experiences to us all the time, and we can make far better use of this data to improve, innovate, and join up our service offers.

Post-Grenfell, the Regulator of Social Housing, politicians, and society at large require the sector to raise its standards and be more accountable.

Over the next three years we will:

  • Use customer data and intelligence, including from complaints, to understand what matters most to our customers and inform service improvements as well as maximising our efficiency and impact
  • Explore how best to bring all relevant customer data into one place, and ensure our customers only need to tell their story once
  • Make it easy for our customers to co-create service improvements instead of guessing what they want; empower individuals to take action within their communities
  • Hook the customer voice into all our strategic themes
  • Enable our diverse customers to engage with us through a range of channels. We’ll use Rockingham Street to bring our customers and people together where face to face contact is important
  • Work with others on Together with Tenants, including our approach to resident oversight, and the PACT model of engagement
  • Ensure our customers can benefit from the breadth of our offer

Theme 2: Doing the basics brilliantly


It is only by doing the basics brilliantly that we can retain the trust of our customers and develop strong customer relationships. Getting the basics right is the foundation of a good business: it supports our reputation and therefore supports our growth. We want our customers and our people to be proud of what we deliver; some of our customers have limited choices and this cannot be an excuse for poor quality. We want to appeal to a more diverse customer base and workforce.


Over the last five years, we have invested in transforming our technology so that we can adapt to the changing expectations of our customers and people. At the same time we have focused our innovation on growth.

Over the next three years we will:

  • Use data, intelligence and customer insight to define our basics, our baseline, what matters most to customers and what brilliant looks like across the business so that we can improve our delivery
  • Use service design to improve efficiencies in all our systems, develop robust processes and support our move to online services
  • Move services online and embed agile working so that we can spend more time with customers who will benefit from a conversation
  • Streamline across the landlord services like rent collection and repairs to avoid waste and make our offer to customers better and more consistent
  • Ensure that our stock investment decisions are data-driven and result in homes that our customers can be proud of
  • Focus, in LiveWell, on methods of delivering our services that have the greatest impact on our customers’ lives; we will tackle health inequalities and use a strengths-based approach in our services.
  • Develop the capacity and capability of our workforce to deliver brilliant services
  • Celebrate the great work we do day-to-day and share learning when things go wrong

Theme 3: Growing what we do well


We are here for the long term. We need to grow so that we can house and support more people to meet the demand in Sheffield City Region, and so that our business evolves and remains relevant. We need to make a surplus to meet our lender covenants and so that we can reinvest in new homes and services: profit to fulfil our purpose. Our growth will be sustainable.


In the last five years we have grown by diversifying into new areas of business. This has delivered excellent results for our customers and our business. However, this introduced further complexity which makes it harder and more costly to manage our business effectively.

Over the next three years we will:

  • Continue, and improve on, our analysis of how well the different parts of our business perform financially
  • Optimise the use of our homes maximising the impact for our customers, the wider system (housing, care, health) and our business
  • Buy or build new homes (within our existing gearing constraints) maximising the number for rent and shared ownership
  • Decide whether to refinance to increase gearing limits and therefore our capacity for borrowing and for increasing the number of homes we own
  • Consider other mechanisms to increase the number of homes we own or manage, such as leasing
  • Work with our partners in Forge New Homes to maximise the number of new homes it delivers
  • Scale up our LiveWell services in six core areas: work and wellbeing, reducing and preventing the cycle of homelessness, increasing independence in the over-50s, providing pathways home from residential care, empowering individuals through communities, building our customers’ resilience
  • Keep the discipline around growing what we already do well and avoid the temptation to diversify further

Theme 4: Tackling the climate emergency


Housing is a big part of the climate change problem representing 25% of UK carbon emissions. As guardian of thousands of homes and a significant business we can and should contribute to meeting the UK’s 2050 zero carbon target. Climate change directly impacts on people’s health and wellbeing and disproportionately affects the poor and vulnerable. It is also a significant risk for our business in terms of the resilience of our homes to the direct impacts of climate change and major cost and resource implications to adapt our business to a low carbon future.


With increasingly frequent heatwave and flooding events, we are already feeling the impact of climate change in Sheffield City Region and we need to act now to future proof our homes and business. Our existing customers expect and need homes that are comfortable and affordable to run and we want new customers to choose our homes. We also need to prepare for compliance: big changes are coming, such as no new homes using gas from 2025, and the need for wholesale energy refurbishment of our existing homes. However balancing investment in retrofitting existing homes and building new ones will be a challenge: we need to do our research carefully to identify solutions that are scalable, affordable and sustainable.

Over the next three years we will:

  • Establish our current carbon footprint and how to report on progress
  • Continue to improve our property data and keep abreast of technical best practice to inform where and when to best focus our investment
  • Engage our customers and employees to identify their priorities regarding the climate emergency, including quick wins and necessary behavioural changes
  • Improve the energy efficiency of our existing homes to meet the government’s Future Homes Standard for retrofit and tackle fuel poverty
  • Build new homes to high environmental standards, make future proofing changes to our current design standard, and test new approaches
  • Reduce fossil fuel use in our business operations and supply chain, including make best use of our new IT and agile working practices
  • Update the Business Plan with the costs of responding to the climate crisis and bid for new funding opportunities as they arise
  • Communicate what we are doing and the impact we are having

Theme 5: Being an excellent employer and great place to work


High ambition for our customers cannot be achieved without high ambition for our people. The quality of our people is the biggest driver of the quality of everything we do and so we need to attract, engage and retain great people. A diverse workforce is a better workforce.


We have a fast-growing and complex business. This means we need to work harder at having a clear, transparent, consistent and attractive employment offer. We also need to create the conditions for our people to do their best work through our workspace and our practice, including a focus on wellbeing. We have a great reputation as an employer and our people value our investment in their development and wellbeing; we need to be better at promoting this.

Our priorities in the next three years are:

  • Review our employment offer to ensure it is flexible and fit for purpose
  • Understand what people we need to deliver on our purpose and how to recruit and retain them
  • Develop and deliver a people plan which enables us to deliver on the breadth of our strategy
  • Ensure that the business, our workforce and our customers benefit from the investment in new technology and agile working
  • Ensure that our board members have the knowledge and skills they need to lead and govern the organisation
  • Maximise the impact of our workspaces to drive engagement, collaboration and efficient working practices
  • Tell the story of what we do, our impact and our employment offer to retain and attract great people

Theme 6: Creating a digital, data-driven and agile business


We live in a digital world. Customers expect choice and the ability to communicate and transact with us digitally at a time and place to suit them. To thrive as a business, we need digital to work for us to enhance our people’s skills, save time and money and add value for customers. We want to use data and intelligence to drive our decision-making and enhance our service to customers. We want to empower our people to work in an agile way to maximise flexibility, collaboration, and performance.


We have invested over the last three years in new technology: infrastructure, software and devices, and part of this programme still needs to be implemented. We now want to build on these foundations to allow our people to work flexibly and to realise significant benefits for our customers, our people and our business.

Our priorities for the next three years are to:

  • Digitise our services for customers including the launch of a new website and customer portal so customers can pay rent and book repairs online
  • Use service design to improve and streamline our processes, working with customers on the design of our services
  • Implement a policy of digital first including new ways for our customers to communicate digitally such as chat and chatbots
  • Pilot digital inclusion support and WiFi access for our LiveWell customers
  • Deliver our technology plan maximising the impact of our new digital systems and making our processes paperless wherever possible
  • Define agile working clearly and enable our people to work in this way across the business through the right technology, culture and workspace
  • Ensure that we realise the benefits and savings from our investment in our digital infrastructure to reinvest in new homes and services for our customers
  • Develop and deliver a data plan, fostering a culture that values and trusts data and that ensures intelligence-driven decision-making
  • Create a central data function and automate management and reporting of data

The impact of our Strategic Plan

If we deliver against all the strategic themes we will have a positive impact on our customers, our homes and our business.

These impacts are described below and linked to each of our six themes.

We have kept the impacts at a relatively high level, and have supplied some examples of metrics we might use.

We will refine these as we develop the initial interventions, and our future approach to data and reporting to the Board.

Download impact report (PDF 4MB)


Our initial interventions

We have reviewed all the priorities listed under our six themes to identify which are the ones we need to tackle first and have grouped these into eight interventions, each of which may well be delivered through one or more change projects.

These are the ones we will take forward in 2020/21. Not all of them will take a full year and so we will review progress during the year and bring forward new interventions as we can.

The eight interventions are:

  • Develop our approach to Together with Tenants, and the wider customer engagement scrutiny and oversight agendas
  • Use data, customer insight and co-design to define our basics, our baseline, what matters most to customers and what brilliant looks like
  • Improve and streamline our processes and systems to get the most out of our investment in tech
  • Increase the number of homes we build, buy and manage
  • Scale up our LiveWell services in six core areas
  • Develop our plan for tackling the climate emergency
  • Develop and deliver a people plan that includes agile working
  • Up our game on data generally and specifically around property data to help with investment decisions, including around retrofit