Theresa May becomes first PM to speak at National Housing Summit

September 19, 2018 / Isla MacFarlane
Theresa May becomes first PM to speak at National Housing Summit

Theresa May made history today by becoming the first Prime Minister to speak at the National Housing Association conference. There has been a lot of talk about her speech, but what did she actually say? We’ve plucked the highlights out of the political puffery…

Housing delivery has stepped up

“In 2016/17, more than 217,000 additional homes were added across England. That represents a 15% increase on the previous year. In fact, with the exception of one year, the last time we saw net completions this high Lady Thatcher was in Downing Street.”

Housing Associations are being handed billions

“I can announce that new longer-term partnerships will be opened up to the most ambitious housing associations through a ground-breaking £2 billion initiative. Under the scheme, associations will be able to apply for funding stretching as far ahead as 2028/29 – the first time any government has offered housing associations such long-term certainty.”

Housing Associations must deliver in return

“Last year I told the big commercial developers that we would give them the support they asked for – but that, in return, we expected them to do their duty by getting homes built.

Today, I’m asking housing associations to use the tools we have given you.

“Not just to build more homes, though of course more homes are needed. But to take the lead in transforming the very way in which we think about and deliver housing in this country.

“Rather than simply acquiring a proportion of the properties commercial developers build, I want to see housing associations taking on and leading major developments themselves.

“Your social mission can ensure developments are rooted in a conception of the public good, rather than in a simple profit motive. That means creating genuinely mixed communities with the right infrastructure and truly affordable housing.”

She wants to ease the stigma of social housing

“Because, for many people, a certain stigma still clings to social housing. Some residents feel marginalised and overlooked, and are ashamed to share the fact that their home belongs to a housing association or local authority.

“And on the outside, many people in society – including too many politicians – continue to look down on social housing and, by extension, the people who call it their home. Part of the problem is physical, in the buildings themselves.

“Whether unintentionally or by design, the decisions we make about the homes we build for social rent – their location, quality and appearance – can all too easily make them distinct from the community in which they stand.

“This, in turn, can cement prejudice and stigma among those who live in them and wider society, leading to lowered expectations and restricted opportunities. It shouldn’t be this way.

“On a new mixed-tenure development, the social housing should not be tucked away behind the private homes, out of sight and out of mind.

“The quality of aesthetic, design and build should not be any lower just because a property is to be managed by a housing association.

“We should never see social housing as something that need simply be “good enough”, nor think that the people who live in it should be grateful for their safety net and expect no better.

“Whether it is owned and managed by local authorities, TMOs or housing associations, I want to see social housing that is so good people are proud to call it their home.”

Housing associations can transform property management

“In 2018, most housing associations are not in the business of building houses. Rather, you manage them, maintain them and take care not only of the buildings themselves but of the people who call them home.

“It is work that is every bit as important as building and development and, when done badly, the impact can range from upsetting to catastrophic.

“While it would not be right for me to pre-empt the findings of the public inquiry into the Grenfell tragedy, it is clear that many of the tower’s tenants felt ignored, patronised and overlooked by the TMO responsible for their homes and their safety.

“Housing associations, with their historic social mission and focus on the civic good, can be at the forefront of showing what good property management looks like.”

Housing associations deserve recognition

“The rise of social housing in this country provided what has been called the “biggest collective leap in living standards in British history”. It brought about the end of the slums and tenements, a recognition that all of us, whoever we are and whatever our circumstances, deserve a decent place to call our own.

“Today, housing associations are the keepers of that legacy. The bearers and protectors of a precious idea that has already made an immeasurable difference to tens of millions of lives and has the potential to transform countless more.

“For too long, your work has gone unrecognised and under-appreciated at the highest levels. But no longer. This government values housing associations.

“Now it is your turn to act, building the homes we need and challenging the attitudes that hold us back. Fixing our broken housing market will not be quick or easy. But it can be done.

“And, with this government’s support, housing associations can be at the centre of making it happen.

“Building on more than a century of history, and carrying forward the torch of high-quality, affordable housing for generations to come.”

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