'It's time for the big conversation - so let the young speak'
2015 was a game-changer for housing - policy changes and harsh criticism made for a tough year. But as we enter 2016, what questions do we need to ask ourselves, and how can young people help us to answer them? CIH President Geraldine Howley shares her views.
Happy new year! I hope the recent festivities were a beneficial - albeit temporary - diversion from a turbulent 2015 for UK housing, and gave us all a chance to prepare for the challenges 2016 will inevitably bring.
The true villains of the property crisis?
I don’t think anyone could have predicted the game-changing events of the last twelve months. George Osborne has repeatedly criticised our sector, Channel 4 news labelled us ineffective and overpaid and The Spectator called us "the true villains of the property crisis." We have been reclassified, rents have been cut and our tenants are facing tough times, too. It seems like our cries to be part of the conversation have not always been heard - it's time for us to show that we are part of the solution, not the problem.
We need to look to our practices with a critical eye this year and ask ourselves some tough questions. Are we inefficient? Are we hindering the house-building recovery? How can we address these claims? It's clear that for at least the next four years, home ownership will be a pivotal part of government housing policy. How can we work with the government to help them meet its housing policy goals while representing those who can't or don't wish to purchase a home? How can we change our business models while retaining our values and purpose as organisations?
However, most importantly, we must think: what is best for our tenants? With talk of efficiencies, numbers, cuts and percentages it would be easy to miss that our customers are at the heart of what we do - but we should be thinking about the future with them in mind.
The next generation
As a major part of this rethink, I believe that we need to focus on the next generation. Young people are central to my CIH Presidential year - they are the future of our organisations and the changing housing sector. They're the next guardians of our industry's purpose, as well as our future tenants. They'll inherit responsibility for addressing the housing inequalities of their time - so it's our responsibility to nurture their talents and encourage their values, and help to build their skills and experiences.
Young people bring new thinking to old problems. It's their innovation and fresh, 21st century thinking we need - it's important we embrace the ideas of the young and the digital technologies that are part of their problem solving.
Plans for 2016
I'm looking forward to CIH's centenary, which kicks off this month. We're proud to be marking one hundred years of our organisation and have a range of events planned to celebrate the occasion, including the Presidential Dinner in February. The evening - held at the Natural History Museum in London - will be a really important milestone in this year of celebrations, and I hope you'll be able to attend.
In March, I will be hosting 'the big conversation’ - a one-day event in Manchester, designed especially for for housing's new professionals. I want to hear from young people and find out how they'd address the challenges of housing's future. Yes, it's time for the big conversation - so let the young speak.