Housing can kickstart economic growth

Published on Monday, 04 February 2013 12:39
Posted by Vicki Mitchem

Ahead of the Mayor of London's guest speech at the CIH Presidential Dinner, chief executive Grainia Long outlines the vital role housing can play in boosting the economy in the capital and beyond.

"We need investment in housing and transport, things that make a big difference."
That's what the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, told the World Economic Forum in Davos last month – shortly after the release of the latest GDP figures which showed the UK economy contracted again in the last quarter of 2012.

Mr Johnson is the guest speaker at our Presidential Dinner on Wednesday, and it will be fascinating to hear whether he picks up that theme there.

Here at CIH we are very clear in our belief that housing can play an absolutely crucial role in setting us on the road to economic recovery and growth.  It needs to be at the centre of the government's economic policies, as we pointed out to the Chancellor ahead of December's Autumn statement.

We know that Mr Johnson sees housing as central to his vision for London.  He is due to publish his '2020 Vision' – a seven-point plan for how the economy of London should look by 2020 – in April.  The mayor's new economic adviser, Gerard Lyons, has been working on the proposals, and speaking in Davos Mr Johnson said they included building hundreds of thousands of homes.

In the shorter term, he has set a target of 55,000 new affordable homes to be started by 2015.

Mr Johnson says his 2020 Vision is part of a strategy to ensure London remains globally competitive.  Fixing the city's dysfunctional housing market will be absolutely key to achieving that aim, but on a more fundamental level it would help alleviate some of the misery caused by its chronic shortage of affordable housing.

The current model is simply not sustainable.  Many people have already been priced out of owning a home in the capital, as evidenced by the 2011 Census, which showed London had the lowest percentage of homes owned outright (21 per cent) or owned with a mortgage (27 per cent) in England and Wales.  And it is becoming increasingly difficult to find affordable properties to rent.  The capital's population is predicted to rise from 8.2 million to nine million in 2020 so there is no time to lose – action needs to be taken now.  Mr Johnson is currently holding a consultation on the private rented sector and I hope he sees how crucial it will be to take the views of landlords, letting agents and most importantly residents into account.

We know housing professionals in London are facing some uniquely challenging conditions, which is why I'm excited to announce that CIH is planning its first annual London conference.  The programme, expert speakers and exhibition will be specifically focused on housing in the capital – I can't say too much more at this stage, but more details will follow as soon as possible.

Of course, many of the issues affecting London are not confined to the capital.  Our housing system is in crisis and the shortage of affordable property is UK-wide.  So I'm sure housing professionals at all levels and from all corners of the UK will be interested to hear what Mr Johnson has to say at the CIH Presidential Dinner, which is one of the most important dates in our calendar.  We're expecting more than 600 people – CIH members, decision-makers and guests from across the housing industry – and I'm delighted that they will all have the opportunity to hear the mayor's vision for responding to the key challenges and opportunities facing housing professionals in 2013 and beyond.

Our industry can be instrumental in kickstarting economic growth, and CIH – along with our members – can be part of the solution.  It's why we have announced an ambitious growth strategy which will feature significant investment in our membership, our role as an awarding body for professional standards, and in online education.

Source: ©CIH

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