Brexit dominates the conversation but the urgent need for new homes isn’t going away

Housing associations will be there to deliver – and the time is right for transformational, long-term investment in social housing.

Kate Henderson is Chief Executive of the National Housing Federation

Kate Henderson is Chief Executive of the National Housing Federation

21 March 2019

Uncertainty is tough. It’s tough psychologically – studies have shown we’d rather know an outcome, good or bad, than be unable to predict it – and it’s tough practically too.

Brexit is very hard to predict. And that’s quite tough. But the housing associations I’ve met over the past few months have been incredibly positive in their approach to that uncertainty.

Yes, in some parts of the country, the housing market is feeling the effects – and this is making it more difficult to plan for new homes. It’s also going to be challenging to recruit vital staff, from tradespeople to care and support professionals.

Housing associations see these challenges, but, without exception, they’re not thinking about what they won’t be able to do. They’re thinking about what they can do. Our sector has, with the right support, built new homes through recessions, supported people and helped anchor communities through radically changing times. We adapt and we respond. We’re there. And we keep on being there.

I have been making this case directly to key stakeholders across the Government and the opposition, including Secretary of State James Brokenshire, the Chair of the Treasury Select Committee, senior officials at MHCLG and the Labour housing team.

Housing is a top domestic priority and housing associations are seen as trusted partners who can be relied upon to deliver. The Spring Statement demonstrated this, with £3bn earmarked for the Affordable Homes Guarantee Scheme specifically to support housing associations to deliver.

While this announcement is welcome, though, it’s not transformational. The only way to transform our housing market, to build 90,000 social homes a year, is with serious, long term investment. Ahead of the Comprehensive Spending Review later this year, we will be calling on the Government to make a substantial, long-term investment to support delivery of the homes the country needs. This will mean investing in new homes, investing in place, and investing in the support needed to help people thrive. Brexit is dominating the national conversation for now, but this urgent need for decent social housing isn’t going away.

Nor is the need to invest in communities across the country. This is another absolutely core part of housing associations’ work. We provide spaces and infrastructure for neighbourhoods to develop. We support people, helping them develop skills, live independent lives for longer and navigate the welfare system. Just like building new homes, this kind of community investment can’t be done without government support – and, just like investment in new homes, the Comprehensive Spending Review is the Government’s opportunity to deliver.

I know that Brexit is uncertain. I also know housing associations will keep doing the amazing work they do – and that the time is right for a transformational investment in our country’s homes, communities and people.

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