South East conference keynote: What’s happening in Whitehall?
With housing having climbed high on the political agenda during recent months, delegates were keen to hear from Gaby Hinsliff - a columnist with the Guardian and former political editor with the Observer - about what needs to be done to keep it there. Gaby acknowledged that there had been a focused shift towards home ownership and that the government’s drive to build new homes does not recognise the need for more affordable housing.
With the majority of people in our country still aspiring to home ownership, government shift in housing policy is unlikely. However, if aspiration of home ownership becomes the reality of many years of renting, many of the electorate will be unable to fulfil their dream of buying their own home. Furthermore, with other distractions including the referendum about Britain’s membership of the EU taking priority, it could be that government housing initiatives could be watered down or postponed until after June.
Also participating in this session was Gavin Smart, deputy chief executive of CIH. Gavin explained the influencing role undertaken by the CIH in relation to housing policy and described some of the work CIH is leading in order to provide well-informed feedback to government, especially through workshop and round table discussions. Part of the panel discussion considered the relationship between housing, DCLG and Nos 10 and 11 Downing Street recognising the negotiations on policy detail with DCLG did not always find its endorsement by the treasury and the Prime Minister. In an attempt to dilute the power held by central government, Gaby and Gavin both agreed that there were opportunities in devolution but in the South East applications had been lacking and without stakeholder support.