Rt Hon Alistair Burt MP - February Issue Article

Social Housing - a fresh start?

Published on: 27/1/19, 7:43 pm

I sat down with Grand Union Housing Group the other month, one of our leading suppliers not only of social housing, but of the understanding of what drives modern tenants. My hardworking team is in regular contact with them on behalf of constituents.
I’m not certain the U.K. ever got rented housing right, in modern times. It’s different on the continent. Rented housing in many European cities is the norm, including amongst those who are affluent, who have never quite been impacted by the desire for home ownership in the same way as over here. Nor the stigma. It’s not that home ownership is wrong- of course it’s not, but it’s not necessarily the only way to live, as often portrayed. Renting is, and should be seen as, just as valid a choice.
So I really welcome the publication recently of Shelter’s report “Building for our Future”, which offers a new vision for an expansion of social housing recognising the reality of the UKs changing housing picture. I particularly welcome the care and effort with which it was put together, with 31,000 people taking part in its Big Conversation and a group of Commissioners drawn from across the spectrum of politics and public life. They have come to a common conclusion about the need for more social housing, and how it can be paid for. At a time of too much division in our political life, we needed this. If it hasn’t yet dawned on politicians, and, importantly, the public as well that we have got to be less partisan in our approaches to life, then it’s time it did.
The Grenfell tragedy told us much about attitudes to social housing, and the stories of inadequate provision in the private sector tell us more. We need that private sector, but like home ownership, it can no longer be the only answer to the changes needed in provision. The determination to look at land value reform, at regulation, and at the detail of cost benefit analysis has presented quite a blueprint for the future. So new homes for those homeless and in poor health, for older renters and for those in inadequate private rentals should make a profound difference to the nation’s quality of life.
The report makes important reading, and I hope the social housing sector, and those who work in it, get the recognition they increasingly deserve.

Rt Hon Alistair Burt MP

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