Housing boss' message to Mark Prisk: 'Let's have a solution not a band-aid'
Published by 24publishing for 24dash.com in Housing and also in Central Government
Let's have a solution not a band-aid
Matthew Fox, chief executive at Viridian Housing Association, offers his thoughts on what the new housing minister, Mark Prisk, should be doing to tackle the housing crisis.
I am sure that the new housing minister, Mark Prisk, is being bombarded with suggestions as to what policies he should go for. So I wondered if I should stay away from this topic this week, but then I thought that a new minister really does represent a new opportunity and the state of the economy means that the Government needs to be bold, so here goes!
I am not going to offer a very specific plan, but I am going to suggest an approach – and that is to think big.
The Chair of an Engineering Company recently said to me “I am just a simple engineer and, as an engineer, I have been taught to look for genuine solutions to problems……and the housing world doesn’t really seem to offer a solution to the housing problem”
I thought that was powerful in its simplicity.
The truth is that the recent housing policy of Governments from any party hasn’t seriously tried to “solve” the housing problem. The approach taken has been to tinker at the edges. No one seriously thinks that the quantity of housing currently being built is going to solve the housing problem. Indeed anyone with any detailed knowledge of the market is likely to say that this (and previous) Governments are doing so little that the housing problem is likely to get worse over the next few years rather than better.
That’s extraordinary. Really extraordinary.
We would never accept a Government policy for health which said that there wasn’t a credible health offer for at least 10% of the population and that the overall state of the Health service was likely to get worse during their term in power. Why do we accept that in Housing? Why is it that the Health aspect of the welfare state has become so much more effectively owned by all political parties than Housing?
Surely as one of the wealthiest countries in the world (yes, we still are!), we should regard housing as a fundamental building block of our society that we can offer everyone a decent home.
I think that gap represents an immense political opportunity. A really ambitious plan to “solve housing” would be hugely popular politically and it would be great for the economy.
A great recent article from Andrey Heywood reminded me that “Government spending on housing is much lower relative to other spending priorities than in the 50s, 60s or 70s” and that “before 1980 over 50% of all new-build housing was affordable and publicly funded”. Does the electorate actually agree with that change in priorities? What would be the political capital from changing those priorities?
Huge. Go for it, Mr Prisk!