Time to change the housing story says Chartered Institute of Housing chief executive

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The government should set a national target for house-building and build more homes for social rent to help tackle the housing crisis, according to the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH).

Speaking today at Housing 2014, the organisation’s annual conference and exhibition in Manchester, chief executive Grainia Long said the government must work with housing professionals to address the growing inequality in our housing system.

She called on the government to:

Play a more direct and active role in housing supply and set a national target for house-building

Be robust and exert control over the mortgage market

Treat housing as a form of national infrastructure

Return to building new homes at social rents.

She said: “The housing market has become a driver of disadvantage and a barrier to improving life chances.  The gap between the haves and have-nots in our housing system is getting bigger all the time. 

“Three in four people believe it will be harder for their children to find a home they can afford than it has been for them. More and more children are living in temporary accommodation, even though we know this is a terrible start to any child’s life.

“We have a generation of young people who cannot access housing that meets their needs at a price that they can afford. And the income gap between tenures is growing.

“If one our main aims as a society is to leave the world a better place for future generations, we must take action now to tackle the inequalities in our housing system and address the housing crisis head-on.

“The founders of our profession believed in the value of housing for improving quality of life.  Our mission must be to return housing to this role, so that housing is no longer followed by the word ‘crisis’. So let’s make this conference our launchpad to use the next election to change the housing story.” 

She added: “Government must be resolute and defend the need to increase supply.  Our polling shows that the public does understand that development is necessary to solve the housing crisis.  Resist the temptation to yield to the anti-development lobby, and the profession will back you all the way. 

“This means a revitalized and expanded affordable homes programme providing more new homes than we are building at the moment and with a greater mix of provision. And yes this means a return to building new homes at social rents. Not because we want to turn back the clock, but because it is a solution perfectly designed and proven to meet the needs of some of the poorest households.

“Affordable rent has a role to play but does not work for everyone in every location and we shouldn’t pretend it does. The disastrous reduction in numbers of new social housing start represents bad policy - we are storing up trouble for the future and we must reverse this trend.”

She added that the industry also needs to provide a better offer for the middle market – including an expanded programme of low cost home ownership, and called for a grown-up debate on standards in the private rented sector.

She also urged the housing industry to challenge itself more.  She said: “As an industry we have not been quick enough to innovate and we need to raise our game. We should all challenge ourselves about what we can do to foster more innovation. There is massive potential to be gained from the creation of a housing innovation fund by the sector for the sector to provide leadership, capacity and a mechanism for testing new ideas and solutions.

Grainia Long said next year’s general election will be the most important for housing in a generation.  She added: “Our polling shows that the public finally understands the scale of the crisis.  They know we need solutions.  And what’s more, they don’t have faith in our political parties to solve it. 

“So our test to all parties, is to build a housing system that works for everyone.  As housing professionals we won't accept anything less.  And over the next few months as the professional body for housing we are taking that challenge to politicians of all parties.  We will demand proof that they are heeding the profession and willing to take the bold steps necessary to change the housing story for good.”

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