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The Chartered Institute of Housing is the independent voice for housing and the home of professional standards

CIH Presidential Dinner speech 2016


President Geraldine Howley's speech at the CIH Presidential Dinner - 3 February 2016, the Natural History Museum, London

Good evening Lords, ladies and gentlemen and welcome to our 2016 Presidential dinner.

We meet tonight at an historic time. We have a new government. The first Conservative majority government in nearly 20 years. Since 2010 we have seen a period of intense change for housing and if anything the pace of change has increased since last May.

At the same time the housing pressures have continued to mount with the inevitable consequences for households and communities. There is a lot for us to understand and a lot for us to respond to.

It can seem challenging but, as housing professionals, we know we must respond if we are to continue to deliver excellent homes and services for the people and communities we work with.

Beyond these changes this is also an historic year for CIH. It's our centenary. 100 years since students of Octavia Hill set up the Association of Women Housing Workers.

We’ve changed quite a bit in that time.

The Association grew to become the Society of Housing Managers. And then, in 1965, merged with the Institute of Housing.

In 1984 we were awarded our Royal Charter - the hallmark of a highly regarded profession and a highly regarded professional body.

And it is not only CIH that’s celebrating an important anniversary.

This year our Asia Pacific branch celebrate their 50th anniversary, a fantastic achievement and proof of CIH's commitment to support and grow our profession nationally and internationally.

So small beginnings perhaps, but look how we have grown to today’s CIH, the professional body for housing, with a Royal Charter and 18,000 members. Working for our members, for the wider housing profession and for a better housing for everyone.

And we've had some notable successes along the way.

From the growth of the social housing movement, through huge programmes of slum clearance, to building millions of high quality new homes.

From massive Decent Homes investment to improve the homes of millions, to supporting the economy and the house building industry during the financial crisis and helping millions of households deal with the impact of welfare reform.

Time and time again through the years we have understood, risen to and overcome the challenges we have faced.

And I know we will do it again.

We know that housing matters. It sustains, transforms and enhances places and lives.

During my Presidential year I have met members in every part of the UK and beyond, and I’ve and been enormously impressed by the passion, determination and commitment that you bring to your work.

I have seen close up the fantastic work of the volunteers who invest so much time and effort in our committees and boards to ensure CIH has an active, local presence wherever you are.

These are just some of the reasons why it is a pleasure and an honour to be your President.

Across the last 100 years CIH has had two consistent priorities.

First, and most importantly, you, our members, and the wider housing profession.

We are committed to making sure you have the tools and knowledge you need to do your job to the highest possible standards.

And to promoting the wider growth of our profession through our commitment to high quality, life long, education and learning.

We are a values-based profession, in business for a clear purpose, transforming lives and neighbourhoods.

As Octavia Hill put it, making “lives noble, homes happy and family life good".

Our second priority is to work in the public interest so that we have the best possible housing system where everyone has a home that meets their needs at a price they can afford.

These aims are as important today as when we began a century ago.

Our commitment to providing value for our members has seen us:

  • ensuring you have the knowledge and good practice advice you need to be the best you can be;
  • strengthening our education and training offer to make sure it is relevant to the needs of the modern housing professional;
  • reviewing the requirements for chartered membership, ensuring that we maintain the same high professional standard, but one that delivers what today's professionals and employers need; and
  • introducing new routes to chartered membership so that there is an option for everyone, at every stage in their career.

On my travels this year I have often heard people from my generation talking about when they did their qualifications. About day release and the pride they had in completing their qualifications and the connections and networks they made.

And rightly so.

But we must also recognise and value that education methods have moved on and housing has changed.

CIH and the educational institutions we work with, have a modern, constantly evolving offer responding to the changing needs of housing.

I urge you all to take the time to see the breadth and depth of the offer.

Housing education isn’t lost – it’s just had a facelift!

This year will also see new ‘connect’ sessions taking these developments further. Bringing together employers, universities, colleges and CIH to map out the skills needs of the future.

By the end of this year we aim to have embedded a culture of continuing professional development across the profession by introducing a new approach to CPD which will require all members to undertake and log their learning.

An essential step to ensure that the badge of chartered membership remains our industry’s standard of excellence.

Above all, we are always here to support you, our members.

And we will continue to make the case for better housing policy.

We will support government when we believe they are taking the right action, but we will not hesitate to intervene when we think they are choosing the wrong course.

Basing our analysis in your expertise of what is really happening on the ground and what really works in practice.

As Terrie said in Manchester, you may not always see us doing this in public.

But we will make the case and do not mistake public silence for private inaction.

Recently government has announced a number of measures that will help get to grips with the housing crisis:

  • investing £6.9bn in housing in the 2015 Spending Review;
  • directly commissioning new housing itself; and
  • a new regeneration policy with new funds available to support estate regeneration.

In each case measures that CIH has actively supported and promoted.

These are encouraging signs that the government is determined to take action to address our national housing crisis; something we very much welcome.

But we also retain concerns.

There are areas where we think government needs to think again or to take more action:

  • We must have a better housing solution for people unable to meet their housing needs in the market. Government’s strategy is too focused on home ownership as the answer, no matter what the question;
  • We have challenged the introduction of the Local Housing Allowance for the social sector. It breaks an important historic link that has underpinned funding for affordable housing. And it risks real, long-term damage, especially to the supported and specialist housing.
  • Rising homelessness and temporary accommodation numbers demand that we do more. Government must invest to promote tenancy sustainment in the private rented sector, heading off the single biggest cause of rising homelessness.
  • And government has weakened the financial position of local authority housing. Just as local authorities were gearing up to play a much needed role in driving forward housing supply. A self-defeating strategy for a government so determined to see housing numbers rise.

In each case we have made our views clear and we are pressing government to change their approach.

We will continue to make the case for better housing policy and to work with government to develop and implement it.

This work is not always easy, sometimes it is very hard, but the alternative, to not engage, to give up, doesn't reflect the values and commitment of our profession and helps no one.

So we choose the harder, but ultimately more rewarding path.

To make the case for what the evidence tells us and the values we believe in.

For me CIH's priorities come together in choosing young people as the theme for my Presidential year.

Young people are the future of our profession and by investing in and supporting them we can give them access to a much brighter future.

I have seen the impact this work can have first-hand through the CIH accredited GEM scheme, founded by incommunities and now working with over 40 partners throughout the UK.

And I have seen the passion, energy and talent of our young housing professionals in CIH's Rising Stars competition.

I'm delighted that this year's Rising Star Julie Wass is able to join us tonight.

Julie congratulations again on your success.

I passionately believe that by investing in young people we can make housing a career of choice and truly build a profession of all the talents.

2016 is the year of apprenticeships and CIH has played a vital role in their development, being approved as one of only two assessors.

And next month I will be hosting the Big Conversation in Manchester giving our younger members a voice in tackling the challenges we face.

I firmly believe the young people can bring new thinking, energy and ideas to many of the issues we face. We must embrace and encourage their contribution.

My commitment to young people is also reflected in my choice of the Prince’s Trust as my Presidential charity.

It’s been fantastic to see colleagues from across housing support the appeal. So far we have raised over £23,000 through various events and challenges.

And there is more to come. From a five-a-side football tournament – and the chance to try to win the trophy from my colleagues at Incommunities – to April’s Canal Relay challenge, taking us from Liverpool, home of CIH vice president, Julie Fadden to Incommunities in Shipley.

I hope too that you will all take advantage of the envelopes on your tables to give generously to the Trust this evening. Thank you.

So as we begin our centenary year I hope that you will join me in celebrating.

But not just because of what we have been, and what we have achieved, but because of what we will be and what we will achieve.

Our centenary is every bit as much about our shared future as our shared past and the shared values that connect them.

CIH has always been an influential organisation committed to supporting and valuing our members in their work, professional development and education.

We intend to stay that way.

We will face many new challenges, but I know that together, as a profession, we can rise to them and continue to ensure we deliver.

We need a confident, skilled and innovative housing profession today as much as any time in the last hundred years.

I know that we are that profession and that we can change lives and communities for the better across the country truly making “lives noble, homes happy and family life good”

Thank you.

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