Friday, July 01, 2011

"Housing Voice" - for Affordable Housing in Britain

On Thursday I went to the Parliamentary launch of Housing Voice the Affordable Homes Alliance
in the Jubilee Room of the House of Commons.

The meeting was hosted by it's Chair - Lord Whitty (2nd right). This cross Party campaign has been formed to raise awareness of the lack of affordable homes across the UK and the need for
urgent government action. Lord Whitty also spoke at last week's UNISON housing fringe.

David Orr, the Chief Executive of the National Housing Federation, Shadow Housing Minister Alison Seabeck MP (speaking) , Alison Graham of Child Poverty Action Group, Roger McKenzie, Assistant General Secretary, UNISON and Stephen Gilbert, the Liberal Democrat Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Housing spoke at the launch.

UNISON sponsored the launch and YouGov research which has showed that:-
  • 71% of the public do not think the Coalition Government is giving much attention to affordable housing
  • For those in private rented accommodation affordable housing is their biggest concern after the economy – 40% compared to 28% for health and 18% for education
  • Building more homes for rent would be a very popular policy with 70% support - including a majority of supporters of the Conservatives, Liberal Democrats or Labour
  • Given a list of possible policies, less than half (40%) supported the idea of increasing supply by moving people from their council or housing association homes once their incomes rise above a certain limit
  • A massive 18% - almost 1 in 5 – always or often struggle to pay their rent or mortgage
"The Housing Voice campaign aims to become a forum for ideas and a vehicle for action in order to build public awareness and push for urgent Government action to deliver more affordable housing"

So all good stuff. What I found interesting was:- Lib Dem Stephen Gilbert MP recognising that we have 250k new households per year but we are only building 125k new homes per year; Alison Seabeck MP thinks that there are votes to be won in planning but too many MPs think it will lose them votes.

David Orr pointed out that countries such as Finland and Norway plan to build 7 homes per 1,000 population to adequately house their people. This would have meant the equivalent of 420k new homes in the UK. We only built 100k last year - the smallest number since 1923 - when our population was half it is now.

Former Housing officer, now an Assistant General Sectary of UNISON, Roger McKenzie, reminded everyone that we we do live in one of the richest countries on the planet but if people do not have dignity, jobs and homes then life becomes intolerable.

Alison Graham of CPAG pointed out how can children who live in awful housing succeed in education if they smell of damp. (Which as a housing officer I know what she means) Toby Lloyd of Shelter was really pleased that at this launch that there was a wide spread of players and not the usual "housing suspects".
Finally, in the Q&A I mentioned that there seems to be a clear connection between countries cited in the debate who have good housing policies for all and are also those countries who are more successful because they are more equal. This would seem to support the arguments put forward in "The Spirit Level" book that societies that are more equal are simply better for everyone - rich and poor.

Update: forgot to add that Alison Seabeck MP had previously agreed to be a guest speaker at a UNISON Housing Association Branch Labour Link meeting, which we now hope will take place early September.


Anonymous said...

The need for affordable rented homes is the biggest issue me and my family face. I for one would vote for any party or mp who would put this at the forefront of political agenda.

John Gray said...

agreed anon.