'It's critical people living and working in the sector help shape its future.'
Over a decade since the Hills review the misconceptions about social housing remain. It's time for us to take the debate forward, says David Edwards, vice chair of PA Housing.
At a critical time the Rethinking social housing initiative aims to support the debate on the future of social housing: what it should and could be.
There is an opportunity to rethink what and who is social housing for, and how it should be provided in the modern era. It has never been clearer that many of the current approaches are unsustainable with an acute and increasing shortage of affordable homes, to which has been added the wider challenges of homelessness, welfare, social services, health, education and other pressures.
The Rethinking social housing initiative is to provide evidence and promote a wider practical understanding of social housing, its role and opportunities, which can inform the debate on the housing and homes we need. This evidence will be drawn from the housing sector, residents, providers and the public. It is designed to be practical -and to give a voice and reflect the reality for those living and working in the sector and those unable to access social housing. We need to listen and respond to the needs of residents, and understand how these continue to change. This initiative will provide independent evidence and challenge from within and outside the sector which can raise public awareness and a wider debate. It will provide an important opportunity for local authorities and housing associations to focus on a shared agenda, and we need to reflect the often varied and different experiences and conditions across the country.
It is critical that those living and working in the sector help to shape its future going forward. The Government has modified its position more recently and moved away from proposals which would further reduce the supply and quality of social housing. Whilst welcome, there is no clear long-term settlement for social housing, and often the criticisms and misconceptions of the sector remain.
If we seek fundamental changes in the current approaches and policies, we need to make, and demonstrate, the positive case for social housing; as essential and integral to a successful, mixed economy and a cohesive society, and the benefits this brings. This challenges the policies which by design or by default have placed social housing and its residents at the margins. It also asks questions of regulation, funding and how our sector should respond to the need for social housing in an increasingly commercial environment and competing public expenditure priorities.
It is over a decade since the last independent, comprehensive review of social housing, where John Hills succinctly summarised the aim as ‘a decent home for all at a price within their means’. The Grenfell tragedy has now brought the issues in the sector back into sharp relief and into the forefront of the public debate, whilst the forthcoming Green Paper gives us a potential platform to seek better solutions.
With my colleagues at PA Housing and others across the social housing sector we feel that this opportunity is too important to miss and are supporting this initiative.
David Edwards is vice chair of PA Housing, one of our Rethinking social housing sponsors.