We just don’t have enough homes
Paddy Gray, CIH President, reflects on what the leading speakers at this years CIH South East Conference and Exhibition 2011 had to say.
The largest regional housing event in England took place this week. The housing world descended on Brighton for three days to participate in the CIH South East Conference and Exhibition 2011. Over 1500 delegates attended, and high profile speakers included Caroline Lucas, MP for Brighton Pavilion and leader of the Green Party, Claer Lloyd Jones, Chief Executive of the TSA, and Richard McCarthy, Director General, Neighbourhoods Group at the Department for Communities and Local Government.
Overall, the mood at the conference was that, as housing professionals, we are facing a period of challenge and uncertainty. I certainly believe that a well-functioning housing market is fundamental to economic success, and that the housing crisis could have a long term impact on society as a whole, not just on our sector.
I chaired a session on the new opportunities and challenges facing delivery and housing. The speakers, John Slaughter, Director of External Affairs at the Home Builders Federation, Richard McCarthy, Director General, Neighbourhoods Group at the Department for Communities and Local Government, and Terry Fuller, Executive Director of HCA, discussed how we can support sector growth in the face of budget cuts and regulatory changes.
John Slaughter’s presentation was particularly eye-opening. He made a stark observation about the housing sector, claiming that the UK has a one million home shortfall due to not enough homes being built. The burden of regulation on house building is certainly a serious issue.
I have worked in the sector for many years, and yet I still cannot understand how, in the 21st century, we cannot provide enough homes for people in need. Northern Ireland, for example, is potentially facing a 30% reduction in the social housing budget over the next four years. If this comes into force, there will be significantly fewer new houses being built - we can only expect 1000 per year under the current funding proposals - despite estimates from the Housing Executive that we need 2,500 new homes per year.
At the CIH South East conference, Richard McCarthy admitted that we have funding problems, with “significantly less public expenditure”on housing. However, he emphasised that the government was trying to create the conditions for growth and had a desire to get “better for less”. His vision is one of a housing system that is flexible, offering local opportunities to support housing growth.
I’m convinced that we’ve already done much of the necessary thinking around how to tackle the issues we face, but solving the crisis will take brave and radical action. In the closing session of the conference, David Orr, Chief Executive of the National Housing Federation and Sarah Webb, CIH Chief Executive summed up the prospects for the sector. The outlook isn’t entirely bleak.
“We have moved into a world that is profoundly different and will change even further,” said David Orr, “However tough it is, there is a particular responsibility on us to respond…our time is now.”