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26/09/2018

New thinking needed to solve the housing crisis

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Housing / iStock_000074406885

Prime Minister Theresa May spoke about changing the ‘stigma’ around social housing at the recent National Housing Federation housing summit (19 September). Brian Cronin discusses how can we change the perception of social housing and make it a more attractive option.

Like the government we want to change the nature of the social housing sector, by creating property journeys for residents, which are more attuned to the lives they lead.

Funding

While government funding is always needed, and Homes England plays a key role in supporting developments, we also need to see new policy thinking around how to attract significant institutional investment, from pension funds for example, so that affordable housing can be delivered at scale. We need a more strategic approach to home-building, bringing multiple sites and local authorities together in allocations and planning for development. We don’t want to build hundreds of homes, we want to build thousands.

In that regard, the content of Mrs May’s speech arguably held more significance than the announcement of new money.

There’s much talk about ‘stigma’ of social housing. The reality is that housing associations are becoming ever-more efficient and professional, while sticking to their core values of providing housing where it is needed most. There is no talk of ‘us and them’ within our walls.

Quality housing

Instead, we are focused on creating property journeys for our customers, designed to be more attuned to the lives people lead. Having a good quality rented home, managed by a professional, dedicated landlord, means we can provide more flexible tenures, with lower rental costs for the tenant. It’s worth noting we refer to our tenants as customers, who like all customers should expect good quality service.

Our aim is to create more places for people to thrive, where customers are proud to rent. We want them to live in secure, comfortable homes, supported by a professional landlord that will keep their home in good order and enable them to get on in life.

Land development

The government is right to recognise the big new role housing associations can play in building more social and affordable housing. The large commercial developers who dominate the market are simply not meeting the huge demand for this and cannot be expected to do so.

I believe that new approaches to land development and institutional investment behind housing associations would really transform the speed and scale at which new homes could be delivered. Only by drawing together landowners, investors and housing associations as professional property managers and landlords, can we truly get to grips with the housing crisis.

The future

Theresa May’s speech pledged to invest additional funds in social housing, to help fund long-term building projects. As well as delivering more homes, it gives housing associations confidence that policy-makers now see our sector as key to building the homes Britain needs.

Brian Cronin is chief group executive at Your Housing Group.

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