Inside Housing’s recent ‘Big Housing Debate’ events and report looked in detail at the Autumn Statement and highlighted some great opportunities and challenges for the housing sector in the coming months and years.
2016 was a year full of surprises. There was plenty to keep the housing sector alert following the result of the EU referendum and the formation of a new government; which gave us a new prime minster and a new housing minister who are both keen to help and support ‘just about managing families’. All of this is a great opportunity for the social housing sector to really ensure they are able to get their message heard on a national scale.
Homelessness is a growing issue that cannot be ignored by the housing sector. In the report from Inside Housing they highlighted real life scenarios as delegates made their way to The Big Housing Debates events “a few minutes’ walk from the Friends Meeting House where the first of the seminars was held, police tape marked out the spot where two homeless men had died just over a week earlier. Then in Birmingham on the following day, delegates on foot from New Street Station in the morning had to pick their way past the city centre’s growing rough sleeper population”
In parts of the UK, including locally in Birmingham, the homelessness situation is a substantial issue and is sadly on the increase. This is the same across the country with the reported crisis of homeless hostels overflowing and having to turn people away.
Statistics show that affordable housing was down 52% on the previous year, something described as “particularly disappointing” by Terrie Alafat, chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Housing. The overwhelming theme was that there is simply not enough housing being built.
Homelessness and people sleeping rough is uncomfortable to see, however, it is recognised by housing professionals that it is often the most visible way of highlighting the ever growing issue and the wider housing problems. It was pointed out by Mr Hood at the The Big Housing Debates event “the increase in homelessness is the result not only of a lack of accommodation but cutbacks in support services for vulnerable groups like alcohol and drug addicts. “For some people, it’s a lifestyle choice but that’s because they have other issues,” he said
Ms Alafat, chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Housing was keen to look at the short, medium and long term opportunities open to the housing sector and how to address them. She warned “It would be very easy to focus on the crisis at hand but we should not forget where we are heading as organisations. We need to be willing to change what we do.”
It was not all doom and gloom; there were some more positive observations to come out of the events, particularly from Vicky Pryce, an economist and business consultant who pointed out “housing was one of the few sectors to enjoy a spending increase in the Autumn Statement”
Ms Alafat also highlighted the importance of the government’s decision to include housing in its National Productivity Investment Fund. “The fact that they are thinking of an infrastructure fund with local authorities in the driving seat is good. It’s good that housing is seen as part of infrastructure and contributes to growth.”
Please read the full The Autumn Statement: challenges and opportunities for housing in the document below.