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Dispatches from Housing 2019 – Thursday

With the Housing 2019 conference in Manchester coming to a close with its third and final day, Inside Housing rounds up the key moments and talking points. Photography by Guzelian

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Dispatches from around #CIHHousing 2019 on the third and final day #ukhousing

As the sun set on another Chartered Institute of Housing conference, there was still enough time to hear from the housing secretary, the mayor of Greater Manchester and a former Labour leader.

After the fireworks of the prime minister’s unexpected visit on Wednesday, Thursday didn’t disappoint, with some significant policy announcements still saved for the closing moments of the 2019 housing extravaganza.

The next prime minister will build social homes... but I might not be here

The next prime minister will build social homes... but I might not be here

James Brokenshire delivering the closing keynote speech

“The next few months will bring in a number of changes,” said housing secretary James Brokenshire as he made the closing keynote at Housing 2019 today.

“A new prime minister, a new government, who knows, a new housing secretary,” he said to the chuckles of the hardy few left in the audience for his address at Manchester Central’s main auditorium.

The speech from the secretary of state, who has had the housing brief for just over a year, had a sense of him trying to tie up the loose ends on many housing policies he has been driving during his time in charge.

The scrapping of the sale of leasehold houses was confirmed, a consultation for a new housing ombudsman was launched, and funding for more garden villages was revealed.

The headline for the social housing sector was the announcement that the government would be giving £2bn to housing associations through the strategic partnerships between 2024 and 2029. The £2bn will be equally split between the Greater London Authority and Homes England’s strategic partners, with the bidding for the new tranche of funding now open.

Outside of the social housing sector, the speech focused on driving up the standards in the private housebuilding sector, which has been beset by issues around the quality in recent years. Most significantly, Mr Brokenshire indicated that certain companies’ access to Help to Buy, the lifeblood of so many house builders, could be predicated on meeting these new standards.

When questions from the floor were called for, he was pushed on whether the new prime minister would be committed to building social rent homes, and whether the government should halt the loss of homes through Right to Buy.

On social rent homes, he said, via a two-minute list of his policy achievements, that he was confident that a drive for social housing would endure no matter who the new prime minister is. On Right to Buy, he said that looking at how councils can use some of the receipts in a more efficient way to build more homes was something that should be looked at and reviewed.

Building Burnham’s homelessness legacy

Building Burnham’s homelessness legacy

Andy Burnham at a Fringe event

Even within the tiny enclave of Manchester where the Housing 2019 conference and associated events take place, it is impossible to miss the city’s dire homelessness problem.

People sleep rough in doorways and on the side of the canal, the region’s mayor, Andy Burnham, spoke at a Fringe event on what has to be done to solve the problem.

Mr Burnham outlined some of his current programmes, but the real highlight of the session was a passionate intervention from Julie Fadden, former president of the Chartered Institute of Housing.

During her tenure Ms Fadden challenged the sector, telling them if every housing organisation housed two homeless people a month – in the way that her organisation South Liverpool Homes has done – this would take an extra 50,000 people off the streets in a year.

Today she spoke with anger as she told the audience: “I have to say it was met with complete, blank ignorance… If we can do it [as a housing association with] 3,500 properties, everyone can do it.”

Mr Burnham agreed, suggesting that people were “overcomplicating” the issue of homelessness and added: “As the numbers are increasing, it’s just [seen as] a fact of modern life that for some people to be successful, others have to sleep in doorways. Well, no.

“I definitely detected that when I arrived in post, a sense of defeatism in public bodies.”

Ed-ucating the next prime minister

Ed-ucating the next prime minister

Ed Miliband speaking at a session on the future of social housing

Ed Miliband showed that even from the backbenches, and even with a lunchtime slot, he can still draw a crowd.

He spoke about the importance of boosting the construction of homes for social rent and put forward the optimistic view that both major parties are in favour of more social housing.

Just before the session ended, and with the former Labour leader mobbed with selfie requests, Inside Housing managed to ask him whether Boris Johnson, whose views on social housing have previously been very negative, might put this cross-party consensus at risk if he becomes prime minister.

Mr Miliband admitted: “He might say one thing one minute and another thing another minute. Your guess is as good as mine to be honest.”

But he added passionately: “Whoever becomes the Conservative leader and prime minister, we’ve got to apply maximum pressure.

“People in this room are a really important part of that movement. This is the moment we’ve got to seize.”

A tough ‘act’ to follow

A tough ‘act’ to follow

MHCLG’s Jo Beck gives her view on the Homelessness Reduction Act

It’s been now a little over a year since the Homelessness Reduction Act came into force – legislation which places new duties on councils to help more people earlier to keep a stable roof over their heads.

A session focusing on how well this has worked so far suggested results have been mixed.

Jo Beck, Homelessness advice and support team manager at the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG), said “strong leadership” is the key difference between councils “that are delivering the act well and those that are not doing so well” – a view echoed by other speakers.

Bex Pritchard, director of operations of Crisis, noted the “inconsistent” levels of commitment to delivering the new duties between authorities – but pointed out that while the act is “a vital first step”, other measures such as more social housing and increases to benefit rates are needed to reduce homelessness. Readers may wish to look out for a call for evidence on a review of the legislation, which Ms Beck revealed will be published “soon”.

The regulator stands ready

The regulator stands ready

Fiona MacGregor gives a talk at the Regulator of Social Housing session

Attendance in the auditorium was looking sparser this morning as sector figures heard an update from the Regulator of Social Housing (RSH).

Fiona MacGregor, chief executive at the English regulator, gave an interesting address, though. She made it clear that her organisation is awaiting the outcome of the Social Housing Green Paper with as much interest as the rest of the sector.

Although Grenfell United and others have called for a new regulator on consumer standards, Ms MacGregor said RSH is ready if it needs to take on those extra responsibilities.

She also hinted at a new focus for the regulator on tenant engagement. Westmoreland Supported Housing recently became the first housing association ever to breach the regulator’s standard on tenant empowerment.

Ms MacGregor’s speech, however, suggested it might not be the last. She told the audience: “Our tenant involvement and empowerment standard requires landlords to publish an annual report on their performance for tenants and to consult tenants on the scope of local offers for service delivery.

“Take that as something that might be coming down the line in terms of what we’re going to be looking at.”

Strang makes a stand on domestic abuse

Strang makes a stand on domestic abuse

CIH president Jim Strang gave a strong closing address to the conference

It was an impassioned closing address from Jim Strang, president of the Chartered Institute of Housing, to close this year’s conference.

With the housing secretary just metres away, he made his feelings clear on some of the government's current policies, demanding the scrapping of Right to Buy and ending the benefit freeze.

But probably the most moving part of Mr Strang’s closing note was his calls for the sector to do more in helping end domestic abuse. Recounting his childhood where domestic violence was “ever present”, you could feel the sense of emotion through the delivery of his words.

He told the story of visiting the hospital with his mother on numerous occasions to get her injuries treated and how so few people – neighbours, colleagues or anyone else – helped or asked what the issues were. And this is still happening today, he said.

Mr Strang added: “Women are still dying or permanently scarred both mentally and physically, this has to stop and we must help to stop it.”

More from Housing 2019

More from Housing 2019

What’s happening at Housing 2019?

Dispatches from Housing 2019 – Thursday Our round-up of the third and final day

Whatever Theresa May says, social housing is still the victim of a focus on homeownership Editor Martin Hilditch gives Inside Housing’s verdict to the prime minister’s speech

Your Housing 2019 tweets: a selection of tweets from the conference

Theresa May believes in a change of direction – but will Johnson or Hunt pay any attention? Jules Birch gives his take on Theresa May’s speech to Housing 2019

Watch Theresa May’s speech: a video of the prime minister’s speech to Housing 2019 in full

Dispatches from Housing 2019 – Wednesday The key takeaways from day two of the conference and exhibition

John Healey on Grenfell, Boris Johnson and Labour housing policy Ahead of his speech to Housing 2019, the shadow housing secretary takes part in a Q&A with Inside Housing

Dispatches from Housing 2019 – Tuesday Our round-up of all the key talking points in Manchester on the first day of the conference

Housing Heroes 2019 winners announced Find out the 17 winners and 14 commendations at the ceremony on Monday ahead of the conference and exhibition

In full: Terrie Alafat’s opening address to Housing 2019 The full text of the speech given by the chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Housing to open Housing 2019

What will the Hackitt Review changes mean for you? Conference speaker Debbie Larner writes for Inside Housing about building safety

Inside Housing and Aico competition: tell us about your resident safety campaign We launch a new competition to promote fire and carbon monoxide safety

The latest news headlines from the conference:

Next PM will be committed to social housing, says Brokenshire

Homes England strategic partners to get £1bn cash boost

John Healey blasts May's housing record

Don't wait for Hackitt legislation to push ahead with building safety, says MHCLG official

Theresa May: ‘social housing a victim of drive for homeownership’

‘No-deal Brexit an opportunity for housing’, claim sector figures

Banks’ appetite to lend threatens offsite take-up, warns major landlord

Minister: funding allocations should be based on joint-agency working

Sector warned that fire safety costs could eat up HRA cap windfall

Theresa May to give speech at Housing 2019 conference

Regulator ‘found no breaches’ following Dispatches programme on Sanctuary

No funding for removal of combustible balconies, says Malthouse

MHCLG housing supply chief: affordable housing grant increase ‘on the table’ for Spending Review

‘We have got to do the right thing’ on affordable housing, says land director of Homes England

Council boss warns against local authority ‘can’t do’ attitude towards housebuilding

Terrie Alafat says Spending Review must ‘make a real difference’

Sector needs £146bn from government over a decade to end housing crisis, says NHF

Savills housing sector survey: building homes more important than existing stock to housing leaders

Morning Briefing: thousands descend on Manchester for Housing 2019

 

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