Call for 'relentless focus' on building new homes

Published on Thursday, 06 February 2014 12:45
Written by Daniel Mason

The incoming president of the Chartered Institute of Housing has challenged politicians to work more closely with housing professionals to develop effective, long-term solutions to the housing crisis.

Speaking at CIH's annual presidential dinner at the Natural History Museum in London last night, Steve Stride also challenged housing organisations to put a "relentless focus" on building a new generation of homes. Stride, who is chief executive of east London housing association Poplar HARCA, is currently vice president of CIH and will become president in May.

Ahead of next year's general election, he said he was particularly concerned about a poll of CIH members in December which found that 30 per cent believe no political party listens sufficiently to the views and experiences of housing professionals, and that 17 per cent don't trust any of the parties to deliver the housing results the UK needs.

Addressing an audience of more than 600 housing professionals, Stride said: "A confidence gap is opening up between housing professionals and our decision-makers at the worst possible time – at the precise moment when partnerships between all tenures, across industries, and inside and out of government, are central to building a housing system that works.

"CIH is not interested in playing politics with housing – we are interested in the ideas and solutions that will provide the right housing, in the right places. But we must go beyond highlighting the deficiencies in our system. It is our job to help to solve the crisis."

Stride said there needs to be an industry-wide focus on supply and developing new delivery models to provide the homes and communities people all over the UK need. He said: "It was housing professionals who first developed ideas for the Decent Homes Programme and it was housing professionals who first advocated reforming the housing revenue account system. We have the ideas and we can make things happen.

"We need an industry wide emphasis on supply – not in our interest, in the public interest. We need to respond with the energy and verve that inspired George Lansbury's social housing revolution – an unequivocal and relentless focus on building a new generation of homes and communities.

"We know housing professionals can transform places, and people's lives. So I will dedicate my presidential year to ensuring that all parties hear – and heed – the voices of housing professionals as they shape their manifesto commitments."

Stride also outlined his concerns about the UK's welfare system, including proposals to axe housing benefit for under-25s and reports that private landlords are refusing to let homes to people on housing benefit.

He said: "What message are we sending to our young people if we tell them, study hard, gain qualifications, choose your career and take a risk in the workplace, but do not expect help if the labour market cannot support you? We cannot support a policy direction that fails to provide a safety net to young people when they need it most.

"The recent decision by some landlords to evict tenants in receipt of housing benefit is also concerning. We need a better response to the challenges of welfare reform than simply excluding benefit recipients as a group. It helps no one and simply gives landlords a bad name based on the behaviour of the few and not the many."

He concluded: "2014 is shaping up to be a year when the glare of publicity will be on housing. I have every confidence that we are ready and able to meet these challenges head on."

Source: Chartered Institute of Housing

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