Equity Housing Group calls for changes in Government policy and approach to address housing crisis in the Northwest
Published by Cheryl Stevens for Equity Housing Group in Housing and also in Central Government, Communities, Local Government
In a mission to address problems and issues faced by the housing sector on both a national and local level, Stockport based Equity Housing Group invited guests and partners to its Annual General Meeting on 28 August 2014 and led the way in a lively discussion around the changes needed to enable the social housing sector to effectively meet the needs of their residents and communities.
Catherine Ryder, Head of Policy at the National Housing Federation and Sue Derbyshire, Leader of Stockport Council and member of AGMA Executive Board, joined Carole Hassan, Chair of Equity Group’s Board to form a panel as part of a question and answer session attended by key housing representatives from the region’s social housing and local government sector.
During the discussion the panel was asked to outline what changes they would make if they were appointed as Housing Minister in the 2015 General Election.
Carole Hassan called for a more localised approach to funding and service delivery and a greater flexibility regarding ring fencing of government funds. The panel identified a need for housing associations to become ‘more than a landlord’ by offering a holistic and innovative approach to services; including support and advice on employment, health and wellbeing for residents and the communities in which they serve.
The panel identified a need for greater recognition and responsibility of the housing crisis from Central Government, calling for all cabinet ministers to understand how housing can impact their portfolios. The Panel was also in agreement that the under occupancy (Bedroom) tax needed to be radically changed or discarded. Carole Hassan said,
“The bedroom tax should be scrapped altogether. Rather than meeting its original objective to house people appropriately, all it has achieved is to demonise people and punish them for being poor.”
On the subject of meeting housing needs within the Northwest, it was agreed that a variety of options need to be adopted by housing associations, including general let, private rent and shared ownership. According to figures from a new YouGov poll for the National Housing Federation, 81 per cent of parents in England of children 18 and under are worried about the impact of rising house prices on the next generation. This is an issue Equity Housing Group is trying to address by creating more opportunities for shared ownership within the region.
Finally the panel appealed to Central Government not to reform the National Planning Framework; however the need to recognise that planning is about people was identified as a priority. A call for better engagement on a local level coupled with a greater push for the social housing sector to market what it does in a positive and collaborative way concluded a lively and interesting afternoon.