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Opinion: Time for housing to come out fighting

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Opinion: Time for housing to come out fighting

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Published by Jon Land for 24dash.com in Housing

Opinion: Time for housing to come out fighting Opinion: Time for housing to come out fighting

By Jon Land, 24housing Editor

People in housing are getting angry.

While I’m not predicting a riot anytime soon, there is a definite feeling in the air that, possibly for the first time in its life, the housing sector is about to stand up for itself.

I don’t think it’s any single thing that’s prompted this tremor. It’s more a gradual release of pent up frustration at a multitude of perceived injustices and the sense that housing is under siege in a number of different ways.

For the last four years we’ve swallowed government funding cuts and the misnomer that is Affordable Rent; we’ve stood up (albeit meekly) to the bedroom tax and we’ve strapped ourselves in for the car crash that is about to be universal credit.

We’ve looked on helplessly as the housing crisis continues unabated as house prices continue to rise, private rents become ever more unaffordable and the number of new homes falls woefully short of requirements.

We’ve sat and watched Channel 4 single-handedly undermine any positive narrative we’ve built up about helping people in need with the double whammy of ‘Benefits Street’ and ‘How to Get a Council House’.

And in the last few weeks the country has taken a further lurch to the right with the local and European elections and the rise of the UK Independence Party. With immigration being (wrongly) blamed for our housing shortage and our own tenants turning out in places like Rotherham to vote for UKIP, is it little wonder that there is a sense of exasperation about where the world is going?

Much of the annoyance felt by housing professionals is being played out on Twitter where the outrage is palpable on a tweet-by-tweet basis. If you work in housing and are not using social media, you’re missing a trick. It’s absolutely the sector’s beating heart at the moment. Some of the more righteous stuff might be a bit off-putting, but at least there’s a sense of something happening. The feeling that housing is saying enough is enough.

It’s where both the SHOUT and Council Homes Chat campaigns started, building up a momentum that we can only hope continues until the next election. Adrian Capon’s second #HousingDay will add to the impact, especially if we can get the Chartered Institute of Housing, the NHF and the National Federation of ALMOs involved.

The message has to go beyond housing and the twitterati on social media. It has to be heard by the people who matter – the voters and the politicians, which is why this year’s CIH annual conference is probably the most important ever. For once, it needs to break free of its stoical politeness and come out fighting. There needs to be huge (metaphorical) punch ups that invigorate and motivate the audience to get off their backsides and do something, rather than stroll off to the pub and forget all about it afterwards.

I have my doubts. This is the CIH conference and the World Cup is on. Alcohol and football have a powerful allure. But it’s about time housing found its balls.

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