Spending cuts increase the need to innovate and collaborate
18th June 2012
This is a testing year for the affordable housing sector – but solutions can be found by forward-thinking organisations. This was one of the key messages we picked up when we attended the Chartered Institute of Housing’s annual conference in Manchester last week.
Central government spending constraints, combined with a difficult mortgage market mean affordable housing providers must operate even more innovatively, efficiently and collaboratively in order to succeed.
Among the major issues is an ever-widening housing supply gap. According to research by property business Savills, the shortage of houses will grow from 400,000 at present to 1.5 million in 2020.
Many industry insiders, including major developers, want the public sector to make more land available for housing development. Clearly the government must avoid a ‘land grab’ situation, yet the need to release land for house building is becoming increasingly urgent. Prompt and decisive action must be taken.
There is no doubt that planning reforms are needed to speed up a process that currently takes an average of 24 months. However, whether this will improve as a result of the new national planning policy framework remains to be seen.
Another burning issue debated by attendees at the CIH conference was the effect spending cuts are having on housing providers’ attempts to boost social mobility. A new report published at the conference found many social landlords faced difficulties in delivering activities that help social mobility, such as apprenticeships and youth projects.
Some of these activities might have to be curtailed as purse strings become tighter. Yet although this is regrettable, we believe it would be a great mistake for landlords to become distracted from providing affordable homes as a result of prioritising social mobility initiatives.
Which brings us back to where we came in – the need for everyone involved in the housing sector to work together to innovate fresh approaches and imaginative solutions.