As summer fades, September feels like the start of a new term. Needless to say, housing has slipped off the priority list for many in Westminster. So, as MPs return from the summer recess, we should work to get it back to the top of the agenda.
Before the election, everyone in the property industry was full of hope. While the government’s housing white paper didn’t set the world on fire, it outlined some core principles and signalled a change of thinking - primarily by expressing an openness (dare I say willingness?) to embrace different housing tenures.
In Gavin Barwell, we also had a housing minister who was universally praised across the sector. As well as having an infectious enthusiasm for property, he understood the country’s dire housing situation and was receptive to the industry’s suggestions on what was needed to tackle the housing crisis.
But things have undoubtedly taken a turn since that ill-fated June election. So what do we need to do to get things back on track?
We need to pick up where the white paper left off and show support for all housing tenures, including retirement housing and build-to-rent. These are growing product streams that with just a little encouragement could make a valuable contribution towards solving the housing crisis.
Housing associations are crucial to new supply, as are local authorities, and they need to be championed. Large-scale delivery comes through long-term stable investment in a range of tenures.
Affordable housing isn’t just a technical term, though; it is the basis for a stable life. Without it, children suffer, health is affected and inequality grows.
Within London, mayor Sadiq Khan has just made some big announcements that will help make land available for affordable housing schemes in the city. Competition for land has always been a huge stumbling block for new social housing.
The mayor’s planned £250m intervention fund is a perfect example of how the public sector can help deliver affordable housing. It would be great to see the other city mayors start initiatives like this across the country.
The new ‘metro’ mayors are doing well and all have made housing a top priority, but this needs to be followed up with long-term investment and programmes that can deliver results.
However, post Grenfell the focus cannot purely be on new housing stock.
With so many people living in older, outdated forms of social housing, there must be an acknowledgement that investment in existing stock is just as important as delivering new supply.
As politicians sit down and dust off the ‘to-do’ list, let’s remind them that a whole host of developers across the sector are waiting for key results to plan delivery post 2020.
These include: working out the rent increases that housing associations can apply; what happens to Help to Buy next; and how we can pay for supported housing.
If answers are not forthcoming soon, the impact will be felt and that means fewer homes will be built.
The time has come for us to shout about housing again: let’s make it loud.