Since Homes for Britain at the last election and the launch of Ambition to Deliver since, housing has steadily made it up the political agenda. We are now at a General Election where it may seem that the conversation is about Brexit and Leadership qualities but there is definitely room for housing associations to make an impact.
Rob Morritt is Head of Public Affairs at Home Group and a graduate of the Influencing Academy
18 May 2017
In 2017 all the signs so far are that housing is remaining an election focus. That wouldn’t have happened without the efforts of many people in our sector, but it is also an opportunity we urgently need to grasp.
The only down side is we’ve only got a few weeks in which to maximise that opportunity. But for all politicians, either Labour, Conservative or other, there is nothing like an election to speed up the engagement and take that opportunity to don a hard hat and high vis jacket or simply get out and meet people.
Many housing associations might be in the midst of pre-planned campaigns and the effort to engage is therefore a bit of a stretch. But even at such short notice the Federation has put together a superb General Election pack. It’s the right mix - something we can all get behind and support but also something that enables those who want to personalise it and make it relevant to our own organisations. That’s exactly what we are going to do at Home Group.
At Home Group, we’ve broken things down into manageable chunks. Those seats where we have a concentration of stock and services have had an invite to the two major contenders to come along get their picture taken and, above all, engage. This is the moment when politicians are at their most receptive. For some it’s a continuation of a relationship we have had for some time. For others it’s the start of a new relationship which could end up lasting a long time.
If the polls are even close to accurate, we are going to see a real shift in personnel at this election. We got a taste of that in the recent Copeland by-election. Having enjoyed a great relationship with Labour’s Jamie Reed we saw 5,300 homes and many thousands of our customers form a relationship overnight with a new Conservative MP. We needed to effectively start from scratch.
In a second chunk we will be sending our message now to the candidates and setting up meetings with the winner for immediately after 8 June. We cannot do everything but we can make sure everyone gets something.
Our strength as a sector is our breadth but also our adaptability. For years we’ve wanted politicians to take us more seriously. Now we are getting it. But that also means we have a greater responsibility. We too have to step up and play a part. We might not have been able to choose when this election happened, but we can choose to go out there and own housing as one of the nation’s key priorities and make the politicians respond.