General election cannot distract us from the housing crisis

So, after weeks of saying that nothing should get in the way of our focus on getting Brexit right, the Prime Minister has decided we need a General Election. A week is indeed a long time in politics.


Of course, the focus of the election campaign will be Brexit. The debate is not now on whether or not we should leave the EU but the terms on which we will leave.

I anticipate even more debate about the merits of ‘hard’ v ‘soft’ and whether or not there should be an opportunity for the British public to vote on the final proposed terms.

This will all take up a lot of air time. The challenge will be to remember that a general election is about far more than just the terms under which we leave the EU.

It is, or ought to be, about the economy, the health service, our broad international obligations, the huge challenge of social care – and, yes, housing.

Because two years on from Homes for Britain and the 2015 general election, we still have a housing crisis.

That fact is more widely acknowledged – but we remain a very long way from having a proper long term strategy to end that housing crisis. Remember the big ask of Homes for Britain? That each party and politician looking for our vote should have a clear strategy to end the housing crisis in a generation?  This demand holds.

Indeed, it is even more important now when the progress we have begun to make could be blown off course by Brexit and all the noise that surrounds it.

We still have a crisis of affordability and no clear strategic plan to deal with that.  We are still producing far too few genuinely affordable homes for rent as well as for sale.

We still have a huge challenge of regeneration and economic renewal in some of our low demand housing markets.  We still do not have a sensible long term plan in place for the sustainable funding of supported housing.  We are still not building nearly enough new homes.

And despite a housing White Paper (what happens to that now?) we still don’t have the bold decisions we need on land supply.

There are other huge challenges too. Some of the changes to welfare benefits are about to bite very hard indeed. Universal Credit has a long way to go before it is functioning well for those who rely on it.

Our social care services (so dependent on EU nationals for its effective delivery) are in danger of collapse.  Whatever the political imperatives behind Brexit, we have to remain focussed on the day to day business of having a resilient, sustainable economy supported by high quality public services.

We cannot allow the General Election to be a distraction from the compelling challenge of ending the housing crisis.

As ever, housing associations are ready to do all they can. Whatever the outcome of the election, we need our new government to be equally focussed and equally ready.

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