Housing and the political landscape
After a year when our industry began to move up the political agenda, policy and practice offer Laura Shimili looks back on the activities of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Housing.
2012 has been a year of many announcements - the Welfare Reform Bill became an Act and housing has moved up the government’s agenda as part of its growth plans. The Housing APPG has reflected this changing landscape, giving MPs and peers the chance to engage in the debate.
CIH took the lead in providing the secretariat to the group this year, taking over from Shelter in 2011. We are handing over to the National Housing Federation in 2013.
The ultimate aim of the APPG is to engage with MPs and peers and to raise awareness of housing issues in Parliament. It’s sometimes been a challenge to get them to engage as much as we would have liked, but our work with the APPG has helped to widen the debate across the housing industry and reach out to more MPs.
Speakers from local authorities, housing associations, academia, the commercial property and construction industries also attended these sessions alongside other interested stakeholders such as the Royal Town Planning Institute, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors and the Home Builders Federation.
Generally there has been agreement from everyone involved that welfare reform will have significant impacts on communities across the country, and that the housing industry will continue to play a crucial ‘stabilising’ role in the lives of some of our most vulnerable people and to help the economic recovery.
Summary of 2012 activities
In March the APPGs on Housing and Planning held a joint event on the housing strategy and affordable housing. Representatives from the Campaign to Protect Rural England, Local Government Association’s environment and housing board and Shelter took part in a discussion.
A session on welfare reform heard from Moat Housing Association, the NHF and Wandsworth Council who gave evidence on the implications of the Welfare Reform Act on housing providers and communities.
Housing’s impact on the economy was also a key topic for discussion, with experts arguing that in the midst of the recession, house building can make a massive contribution due to its immediacy and the speed at which it can deliver compared to other infrastructure investments.
At the group’s AGM, Annette Brooke MP and Graham Jones MP were elected new co-chairs, Stephen Pound MP was elected vice-chair and Lord Best secretary. The new officers will shortly set out their priorities for 2013.
In September, the APPG called for a backbenchers’ debate on housing and growth. But as the year progressed it became clear the subject was getting more political attention - a welcome and long-awaited development. The group is therefore planning to review the call for a debate to see whether it is still relevant in 2013.
The group also held a session following the autumn statement at the beginning of December, involving experts from CIH, the NHF and the Northern Housing Consortium.2013 will undoubtedly bring new challenges but we hope the APPG, following the lead of the NHF, can do them justice.