A new majority government could open the door to the strategic leadership the country needs. We must now make the case for social housing and building safety, writes Kate Henderson
Last Friday the Conservatives won their largest majority since 1987 and a clear mandate to deliver on their manifesto. This was an election like no other and parts of the country voted Conservative for the first time.
The prime minister has been clear that his government will seek to do right by those that have voted Conservative for the first time and retain their trust, and their support. What matters to them should therefore matter to the government.
We commissioned some polling before the election to understand how important housing was to swing voters and in particular Labour Leave voters who turned out to be key deciders this election. Second only to the NHS, housing was their top local issue.
With 8.4 million people directly affected by the housing crisis in England, this is hardly a surprise. The good news is that the numbers of new homes being built by housing associations are going up and this trend can continue.
We will be looking to the new government to provide the certainty that will enable us to build on the success of the past two years; a key part of which will be renewing the Affordable Homes Programme as detailed in its manifesto.
With this certainty we can deliver the homes the country needs, with the ambition to build 145,000 homes a year, including 90,000 for social rent. And for areas of the country where the housing crisis is not about building new homes, our experience will be invaluable to support regeneration and economic development.
We know that making existing and future buildings safe, following the aftermath of the Grenfell fire, will be a top priority both for our sector and the new government.
Housing associations are working hard to remediate their buildings with aluminium composite material cladding as quickly as possible and make plans for those clad with other combustible materials.
This complex and extensive programme of work will greatly benefit from the renewed strategic leadership a new government can bring – by working together we can make buildings safe more quickly and prioritise the most important work.
Ensuring that all residents know they are safe in their homes is just one part of building trust between tenants and landlords. And we welcome the Conservative manifesto commitment of a Social Housing White Paper, to build on the work within the sector to deliver a new deal for social housing residents.
Housing associations recognise there is more they can do to be accountable to their residents. The sector has started work to improve this and early adopters of the Together with Tenants model are already seeing positive change.
Minority government and Brexit chaos has limited the scope for action on the country’s domestic priorities. But with greater stability, the right tools and a constructive relationship, housing associations can deliver the action needed on housing.
In the coming weeks and months we must work together, make a clear offer to the new government and build relationships, so we can shape the future of social housing and fix the housing crisis for good.
Kate Henderson, chief executive, National Housing Federation