You may have noticed that housing had a small get together last week. Yea… this is another Homes for Britain rally blog. Sorry, it’s been a long week or so and these things don’t write themselves. It was good to see such that such a large cross-section of the housing world was in attendance. Well they appeared to be based on the tweets. I didn’t actually speak to too many people… SHOUT were also there in force and it was good to see so many people so passionate about (let’s face it) something that is a bit mundane to the average punter.
The speakers were from all the main political parties (and UKIP) plus a selection of informed contributors. My top 3 were: Ken Loach was full of passion, a fierce wit and an utter lack of respect for time limits. It was worth the trip alone to see him in full flow. Though sorry fella but a planned economy is never happening. Frances O’Grady – set fire to the 3rd bar and a few more besides. Full of rage against inequality and injustice, highly articulate and definitely worth listening to. Finally, Miriam Ahmed. Homeless at a young age, visibly pissed at the hand people can be dealt with and determined to change things for the better. If you are holding a staff conference, or simply want to remind people of why we do what we do, I would suggest getting her along. Your staff will be singing Les Marseilles quicker than you can say to the barricades.
What was clear however, despite all the glitz and glamour was the enormity of the task ahead. Two very key contributions came from Tim Montgomerie of Conservative Home. The other from Deborah Mattinson of Britain Thinks. Tim noting it is all well and good for all the speakers to say they believe housing is an issue at a pro-housing event but what are they saying elsewhere? Both Labour and the Lib Dems have had opportunities to do so, but haven’t. This would suggest that neither the public or the political class deem housing to be a vote winner, not just yet at any rate. This was supported by Deborah who pointed to the fact that polls still place housing down the agenda. That whilst people see housing as an issue they don’t see it an issue affecting them locally, something that is key. ‘Cos you know if ain’t happening down their road most people don’t give a monkey’s. Ironically enough a majority think more housing was needed, just not in their backyard thank you very much.
Mr Michael Green Grant Schapps duly popped in to play the pantomime villan (oh no he didn’t…sorry, I’ll stop now). Whilst all the other parties admitted more work needed to be done on housing (well Farage just went on about brownfield sites, the days of yore and I think something about immigration) Mr Schapps sounded off a bunch of dubious figures with the general demeanour of someone stating, “you’re wrong” at every challenging remark. He did at least manage a wry smile when reminded of his occasionally dodgy memory by the hostess with the mostess, Jonathan Dimbleby.
It was a hint of things to come from his colleague the Rt Hon Gideon George Osborne (honestly what is it with this lot and names). In the final budget before the next General Election Mr Osborne popped out another demand side initiative. A move that is seen as aiming to perpetuate a superficial feel good factor pre-general election. Short term political gain aside it will not do a lot (though it did get the ire of the Institute for Fiscal Studies, small mercies and all that). Certainly it won’t help to resolve our housing crisis. The two best responses to the budget came from the JRF and Danny Dorling in the Daily Telegraph. I couldn’t put it better myself, so I won’t.
If you want a real downer from the upper that was the homes for britain rally I would suggest reading Mr Halewood’s piece on our inability to frame the terms of reference in the debate on housing. And our failure to properly highlight our value for money to the taxpayer. Turns out we save Joe Bloggs a bomb compared to housing poor people in private rent properties.