It’s that time of year when the great and good of housing gather in
Harrogate for the annual CIH conference. Regarded as the ‘must
attend’ event for the sector, the conference provides the chance for housing professionals to come together, share ideas and opinions, a few jokes and the odd beverage. The mood is usually relaxed. Last year, one afternoon session was even devoted to showing coverage of an England World Cup match.
This year, however, promises to be very different. The social housing landscape has changed beyond recognition. Indeed social housing as we know it may not exist for much longer. The Government has its own plans for the sector and nothing is going to stand in its way, least of all the sector itself.
At the heart of Government housing policy is Grant Shapps. Last year, the then newly-appointed Housing Minister closed the conference by confirming his intention to abolish the Tenant Services Authority. Talk about a statement of intent. Since then the Communities and Local Government department has proved to be one of the most radical at Westminster, demonstrating a commitment to change that only Iain Duncan Smith at the Department for Work and Pensions has been able to match.
It’s interesting to note, therefore, that the centerpiece to last year’s conference was the ‘housing pact’, an offer made by the CIH on behalf of its members to work with government on specific areas of policy. At the time Shapps enthusiastically signed up to the pact but, one year on, have any of the objectives actually been met? Neil Merrick finds out in our main feature.
On the eve of the Harrogate conference, I managed to catch up with the Housing Minister for a quick chat. Always affable, Shapps is one of the nicest blokes you could wish to meet. It’s a far cry from the cock-sure, Cameron-esque, know-it-all that comes across when he’s making speeches. What’s also slightly scary is his unshakeable belief that the Government’s policies are going to positively transform how the housing system works in this country. Like many I have my doubts but only time will tell. In the meantime enjoy our entertaining interview.
Elsewhere in this issue, Paul Coleman visits a deprived corner of North London where affordable housing was deemed ‘unviable’ for a landmark development, provoking fierce opposition and Alex Klaushofer discovers whether mutualism – a favourite Government buzzword – can have a positive impact on the future of social housing.
Editor, 24housing Magazine