Quizzing Derby’s politicians on the housing crisis

Last week I attended the first of five pre-election hustings arranged by the East Midlands Chamber of Commerce. It took place in Derby and was attended by:

  • Chris Williamson (Labour PPC for Derby North)
  • Amanda Solloway (Conservative PPC for Derby North)
  • Lucy Care (Lib Dem PPC for Derby North)
  • Sue MacFarlane (Green PPC for Mid-Derbyshire
  • Barry Cooper (UKIP regional organiser for the East Midlands)

Each member of the panel gave a 4 minute opening speech and then the chair took questions from the floor. I had the honour of asking the first question, as follows:

“Futures Housing Group is committed to the Homes for Britain campaign which calls for the next Government to end the housing crisis. Will you pledge your commitment to this and how do you propose to tackle the housing crisis in this area?”

Each panel member had 90 seconds to respond and this is a very brief summary of the topics they highlighted:

Labour: more control and regulation in the private rented sector, building 200,000 homes a year, disagrees with the proposed expansion of RTB to housing associations

Conservatives: building 200,000 homes a year, success of Help to Buy, defended the proposed expansion of RTB as it ‘won’t make people homeless’

Lib Dem: building 300,000 homes a year, create an investment bank, more modular and off-site construction

Green: strongly disagreed with the RTB proposal, carbon neutral development, tackling fuel poverty and affordability

UKIP: focus on brownfield development, increase council tax for empty properties, encourage development of homes under £250,000 price tag, building 200,000 homes a year, tackle migration to address demand

Other audience members then posed questions to the panel, including HS2, delays and costs of planning permission, devolution, the austerity agenda and boosting Derby’s high-tech industries.

It struck me during the event that there is a lot of common ground amongst the five parties (in fact, UKIP agreed several times with the Greens!), i.e. they all support increased housebuilding, the difference seems to lie in their values and the detail of how they will achieve their aims. You can follow the other hustings events on Twitter @EMChamberNews


Not even talking to ourselves

Phew, what a hectic week! In the last few days, I’ve been on a little tour of the north attending not one, but two academic conferences to present the research I completed as part of my BSc Housing at De Montfort University.

Having spent countless weekends over several months completing the research for my dissertation, I didn’t want to just submit it to my tutor and forget all about it; I was keen to share it with the wider world and hopefully contribute to the debates going on in various housing circles. So I was really chuffed to hear that my conference paper submissions had been accepted by not just one, but both of the conferences I had contacted. Frustratingly, they both took place over the same three days so I wouldn’t be able to attend either in full!

First up was the Housing Studies Association annual conference in York. The theme this year was Housing the Generations. The line up of speakers was superb and I’m really looking forward to reading through all the papers.

Secondly, in Liverpool, was the Journal of Architecture, Media, Politics and Society’s inaugural conference in their Housing – Critical Futures series which will visit 6 international locations during 2015 and 2016. As the name suggests, this conference took a broader (and also an international) view than HSA so the contrast of attending each was really interesting.

At each conference I had a 20 minute presentation slot to talk through the findings of my research on the topic of the role the UK Government can play in subsidising affordable housing. You can read a summary of this research here: Conference paper

I was really pleased with the reception to my presentation by delegates and there was good discussion at both events about the cognitive dissonance in my research findings; housing professionals both demand a return to huge amounts of capital subsidy for development and also call for a self-financing sector! I suppose who wouldn’t want the best of both worlds if they could get it!?

Attending the conferences also gave me exposure to different view points on the same problems; it was great to hear how architects see the housing affordability problem and how they can contribute to its solution. It also helped me to think about some work problems in a different way so I’m now investigating the possibility of running an architecture competition to generate some innovative ideas to reinvigorate a deprived area and doing a research project to evaluate the empty homes scheme I have been delivering for the last 3 years.

It also made me realise that I really enjoy understanding the bigger picture of the housing world and using this to design and implement new, innovative solutions to the housing problems facing the communities that I serve. In an ideal world, I’d love to spend every working day researching new ideas and working with colleagues and customers to put them into action.

I really enjoyed attending both conferences and it was such a shame that I was the only housing professional present at either. It is often said at housing conferences that as a sector we are too insular and spend too much time talking to ourselves, but it seems we don’t even do that, in fact different parts of the housing world are keeping themselves to themselves and not talking, supporting or even listening to one another, madness! There is so much we can all learn from one another so I hope to attend the HSA conference again next year and hopefully encourage a few others to come along. I’ve already been in contact with CIH about including academics at their Manchester conference and I hope NHF might do the same as a couple of their representatives were in York. Maybe there is a role for the Homes for Britain coalition to continue in a more localised format to bring partners together for more operational purposes? It would be great if we can build up a really strong link between housing practitioners and academics and really improve the work we are all doing to ensure everyone has a decent, affordable place to call home.