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North West Housing Conference 2016: What did we learn?

North West Housing Conference 2016: What did we learn?

Monday 14th November 2016

Last week, Brabners and Mitchell Charlesworth brought together experts from across the housing sector with more than 140 delegates as they debated the key issues facing the industry at the North West Housing Conference.

With representatives from housing and data consultancy arc4, the National Housing Federation, the Council of Mortgage Lenders, South Liverpool Homes and Crisis UK all speaking at the event, delegates discussed issues from home ownership to how to solve the housing crisis.

Derek Long, director of arc4, stated his belief that the ability to provide sufficient housing is the ‘defining challenge of our generation’. While 84 per cent of people would like to own a home, only 64 per cent believe they will actually achieve it. An issue that may be exacerbated by the fact that house prices in relation to earnings are now 50 per cent more expensive than they were for the last generation, making it harder for people to buy property. He referenced that with interest rates at an all-time low there is the potential of a silver lining. Although as the economy picks up we could see these increase, meaning securing a foot on the housing ladder is likely to become even more challenging.

While the numbers indicate challenges ahead, the good news is that housing associations can help. Gill Payne, director of policy and external affairs at the National Housing Federation, explored the conference theme of ‘homes for all’. She highlighted that housing associations continue to provide large numbers of affordable homes, accounting for nearly 30% of new homes built in 2015. Yet she argues these organisations will also play an important role when it comes to shared ownership schemes and if people are to be given the opportunity to own their own home, this must remain a key focus.

But is this enough? Julie Fadden, chief executive of South Liverpool Homes, explained there must be affordable homes for all regardless of the type of tenure. She pointed to projections from the Chartered Institute of Housing that estimate up to 300,000 new homes need to be built in England every year if we’re to successfully tackle the housing crisis. Given that only 150,000 homes were registered to be built in 2015, it’s clear there is still a massive shortfall.

For Paul Smee, Director General of the Council of Mortgage lenders, he agrees on the importance of shared ownership. He believes the government should encourage those lenders who are less confident in lending to the housing sector to do so via shared ownership. This will build confidence among lenders as they see returns, in turn helping to ensure greater financial security for housing associations.

As a regular feature in the industry’s events calendar, the North West Housing Conference provides an opportunity for industry professionals to speak honestly about what lies ahead. Hearing from the experts, it’s evident significant challenges remain in store for housing associations but with increased government funding and an increasing flexibility in the tenure, the sector is in a good place to meet these challenges.

The conference, now in its fourteenth year, was sponsored by The Regenda Group, Liverpool Mutual Homes, Symphony Housing Group, ForViva and the SLH Group. Delegates also had a chance to hear from, Chris Hancock, Head of Housing at Crisis, the national charity for homeless people, and understand more about the important work it is doing both in Merseyside and further afield to help tackle the issue of homelessness.

Alistair Fletcher, Head of Housing & Regeneration at Brabners