From the question facing our panel of development experts - ‘what new model could kick-start social house building?’ - to Sir Bob Kerslake’s launch of the £400 million ‘kick-start’ fund to help stalled projects, it was everywhere.
So what happens now we’ve kick-started the debate? As we discuss on page 26, there were a number of proposals to allow providers to respond to Sir Bob’s clarion call for immediate action. Perhaps the most interesting aspect, however, was the attitude toward the role of local authorities.
Besides the ‘kick-start’ fund, Sir Bob’s other major announcement last Friday was the launch of the bidding process for the £100 million made available in the Budget for councils to build homes.
If our industry is to build the homes this country still needs we must stop dancing entirely to developers’ tunes.
It is simply not in the interests of private builders to deliver on the government target of 240,000 new homes a year from 2016 onwards. They may talk a good game, but when the chips are down developers must meet the demands of their shareholders, not the country’s poorest people.
If we are honest, this means market intervention and a bigger role for local authorities and the land they own. There will never be a better time to reshape the way we build homes to ensure we supply enough good quality housing. Demand to rent and buy has, if anything, become even more pent-up in the recession but is already showing signs of returning. I am not suggesting that councils attempt to usurp the development expertise of associations, but that the two work in partnership to ensure the construction of mixed-tenure, well-managed, viable communities.
Already, the signs are there that councils will be able to bring forward schemes with associations which will hugely oversubscribe the £100 million pot. If this appetite can be encouraged across the country, surely it would give the sector the kick-start it badly needs.