Steve Douglas offers some thoughts for the summer
What have you done today to make you feel proud?
The immortal words of the Heather Small song in the bid to bring the Olympics to London, reminds me of why the hard pressed housing officer, the overstretched development person and the community development manager got involved and stay involved in housing and regeneration. To do things that make a difference and for which they can be proud.
Yet it seems to me, that the contribution that housing can make to the lives and fabric of society still gets too little mention or appreciation. Worse still it gets pigeon holed as part of the problem. Following the riots last summer, the contribution that Associations were expected to make was to identify and evict their tenants, who had been involved. We missed the fact that associations and ALMOs such as Newlon and Homes for Haringey in north London, were amongst the first to the table to begin the work on helping to rebuild communities, positively working with the so-called troubled families and the local authority on solutions.
If the last year has seen the most fundamental set of housing reforms to be introduced for a generation, the housing sector has found itself on the wrong side of the political argument, despite being right at the centre as government’s key delivery agent to complete 170,000 homes over the next four years.
Over £109 billion of investment in housing should give the sector some influence in shaping the model and the solutions, yet its achievements continue to get overlooked.
I was fortunate to recently attend Professor Anne Power’s celebration of 25 Years in housing policy and research. Although celebrating the past, the message was clear- much done, yet still so much more to do. And at the event, one of her previous students, Stella Creasy Labour MP, spoke about the crucial importance of housing in the success of communities. A star of the future, I wonder if she will regard the sector as crucial to housing delivery or will she look to other models, to support those communities who will be under strain over the next few years? If she looks elsewhere, the sector has failed to make its case to both of the main parties.
Now is the time for the sector’s leaders to stand up and be counted. As we go into the financial accounts season, the spotlight will be on association’s balance sheets and their returns. The key question that should be asked is what difference did you make, not just numbers, but to quality of life and to the life chances of the many, and the few.
Send me a post card and let me know, or better still get your MP or your housing officer to send a card on what you did today to make them feel proud.
Good luck GB for the Olympics. Happy holidays.