October 2012 (Issue 53)
The appointment of a new housing minister marks the beginning of a new era – or so we hope.
In his final months, the relationship between Grant Shapps and the “taxpayer-supported” housing sector became fractious to say the least with both sides increasingly taking cheap shots at the other’s expense. On the one hand, Shapps was dismissed as a political chancer who was making up housing policy on the hoof and someone who felt the need to disguise disastrous housebuilding figures with ludicrous claims to the contrary. Meanwhile, Shapps – who had consistently chipped away at the reputation of housing associations throughout his tenure – used an interview in the Daily Telegraph just a week before the Cabinet reshuffle to well and truly put the boot in, almost as if he knew he was about to leave housing behind.
It’s interesting to note the more conciliatory tone already being taken by his successor. Mark Prisk has been quick to point out the differences between his “practical” approach and that taken by Shapps, which was always more about scoring political points. As Prisk reveals in this month’s magazine – his primary focus is to deliver new homes as quickly as possible but he has quickly realised that he’ll need all the help he can get from within the housing sector.
His first move was to make his maiden speech as housing minister at the National Housing Federation conference, an event Shapps had studiously avoided for the past couple of years. Prisk talked about partnerships, about the central role of housing associations in delivering all types of housing.
Of course it is early days and Prisk is still a housing minister cut from the same Conservative cloth as his predecessor but let’s hope he is willing to listen and engage on the big housing issues for the benefit of everybody. Let’s remember, we are all in this housing crisis together.
Elsewhere in this issue, there is a strong focus on development including coverage of our recent roundtable on affordable housing delivery post-2015. It’s fair to say it’s not the most optimistic of reads but enlightening nonetheless.
We also take a look at regeneration plans for the former Robin Hood Gardens in east London, hailed by some as the jewel in the crown of ‘brutalist’ architecture but regarded by others as an uninhabitable eye-sore. With work set to begin next year, Kate Murray wonders what lessons can be learned from the past.