Looking back over my two-year tenure as chair of the G15 group of the 15 biggest housing associations in London, which ended last month, I can’t think of a more extraordinary period of change in the housing sector. As well as the financial crisis, which has left London facing the worst housing shortage for 50 years, the coalition government has thrown out the rule book for housing associations and our residents. We have had to make some tough decisions.
We believe we must work with the government to deliver the new affordable homes that London so badly needs. The combination of the new affordable rent regime and the changes to benefits makes building family homes very difficult, but we are helped by the strong relationships we have forged with the mayor, London Assembly, London Councils and the Homes and Communities Agency. I’m proud, too, of our important London Moves initiative to support residents to move to sustain or take up employment, and the work we have done to tackle the chronic problems of homelessness and overcrowding in London.
In my final week as chair, the G15 launched a report produced by the London School of Economics which found that the case for investment in affordable housing in London is overwhelming, both in terms of social benefits and the impact on the capital and the country’s economy. It is the first such report to have the backing of the G15, the LSE, the mayor of London and London First, which gives some indication of what is at stake. We were also able to raise the benefits and affordability issues with government. There will be challenging times ahead as G15 associations, which are to deliver around six in 10 of London’s new affordable homes during the next four years, try to make the most of the new system under new chair Keith Exford’s leadership.
Steve Howlett is chief executive of Peabody