It seems that the government has at last realised that there is a housing problem if not a housing crisis.
Moreover, it also seems that Ministers have recognised that local authorities and housing associations might provide part of the answer. It’s about time too we think.
It’s not just providing more homes although understandably that would help.
There has been massive under investment in the housing market for all households.
Add to this homelessness, domestic abuse, child poverty and dementia care in older persons housing and the answers are clearly in need of a few different solutions.
Recent stories in “ Inside Housing” have highlighted novel approaches to trans-regional partnerships, rent setting policies but also a worrying trend of declining spend on repairs and maintenance.
Mortgage lending is said to be on the slide. Taxes and regulations have impacted upon "buy to let" sales so the picture is not a simple line drawing. Let’s remember the lessons from the history of municipal housing and that provided by housing associations (registered providers, the third arm, not-for-profit, call them what you will.)
The recently published “Municipal Dreams” by John Boughton, reminds readers that the provision of housing to rent for the working classes, did not always mean they could afford it.
More likely the homes were a demonstration of architectural fancy, or blind political vote catching, rather than built upon proper statistical analysis of need or demand.
It was the impact of “Cathy Come Home” a BBC television play some 50 years ago, that pricked the nation's conscience. This led to charitable monies from SHELTER to prop up a failing revenue-based subsidy system.
Capital grants eventually were introduced, this reduced the ongoing debt, which together with personal rent subsidies led to a more affordable home housing provision. But that was then, this is now.
Looking forward, we can no longer take it that government will have the same sympathetic support for the traditions of social housing.
We can expect a harder approach, which will limit the number of chosen partners and will certainly involve “for profit” companies.
The anticipated Social Housing Green Paper, will no doubt clarify this Government’s intentions. It may well be uncomfortable reading. Retaining the status quo is unlikely.
The historically favoured providers, if they are to compete, will need to demonstrate outcomes in social and economic measures, not just more homes.
Market demand is only one factor in this new scenario.
The continuing pressure on the Government's spending with priorities of the NHS and especially social care, law enforcement, education and defence are all in the queue. So, do not expect special treatment.
At Arc4, we see all these aspects throughout the many and varied clients. They call upon us to create or validate what they are doing or plan to do. It is fascinating. Call us and share confidentially your views.
Who said” together we can”.