If nothing else, party conference season is always a useful way of finding out where housing currently ranks on the political agenda.
Hopes were high at the end of August that we had reached a tipping point with the UK’s housing crisis finally being recognised by the public at large rather than just the few thousand people with a vested interest who have been banging on about it for years. The Eureka moment came thanks to perfect timing from the National Housing Federation, which launched its statisticallydevastating
but media-friendly ‘Home Truths’ report on a particularly quiet
news day and saw it devoured by every news outlet in the country.
The fact that ‘Home Truths’ doesn’t say anything new is irrelevant. The coverage the report received and the subsequent acceptance that the housing market in this country is essentially screwed, should have ensured the subject got a good airing at conference time.
Unfortunately, this has not really been the case. The momentum built up at the start of September already seems to be slowing. Other issues (the economy, Palestine, horse whipping) seem to have
moved up the agenda while housing once again steps into the shadows. Yes, Andrew Stunell used his speech to talk about tackling the problem of empty homes; yes, Ed Miliband covered social housing allocations in his leader’s address and yes, Shapps and Pickles discussed how their policies were beginning to make a difference but the ‘housing crisis’ as a theme barely got a look in, except at (entertaining but ultimately ineffectual) fringe events.
Where we go from here is not entirely clear. The Federation’s own conference and the issues it addressed, while being hugely beneficial to delegates, was essentially preaching to the converted and did not attract any coverage from the national media. This was not helped by the fact the Housing Minister declined an invitation to speak. All we can do is keep up the pressure on the politicians, keep making the case for affordable housing and hope the Government eventually realises that some sort of investment in this area may actually provide the boost to the economy that George Osborne -
and the country - so desperately needs.
This month’s magazine, meanwhile, takes a look at an issue that has been at the forefront of social landlords’ thinking since August’s riots – anti-social behaviour. As the dust settles on those few days of madness, we asked Kate Murray to find out whether social landlords are continuing to take a hardline approach to evictions now they’ve had time to reflect.
Sam Thorp, meanwhile, looks into the impact proposed new anti-social behaviour legislation could have on the sector and whether it will prove a help or hindrance.
Editor, 24housing Magazine