The one that particularly stood out for me this year was the session on the Addison Act. Aside from being a ground-breaking piece of legislation which led to the building of council houses, it happened in 1919, the same year Railway Housing Association was formed, so it resonated with me on a number of levels.
It was interesting to hear from George Clarke, him from the television, who spoke about growing up on a council estate in our neck of the woods, in Tyne and Wear, and who went on to buy a former council house in London, albeit for the tidy sum of £1 million. But more on George in a minute.
As I left the room, there was a camera crew from the CIH interviewing people about the session, so I used the opportunity to also mention our own centenary because back in 1919 we were effectively doing the same thing as the Addison Act, e.g. providing affordable homes.
I am not sure if my little cameo will be used for anything, but it was still nice to be able to mention Railway Housing Association on TV!
Anyway, back to George. Another session I sat in on and which also included him on the panel was a discussion around fire safety and whether lessons had been learned since Grenfell.
George’s home is in the shadow of the Tower, so he spoke about how quickly the fire spread on that fateful evening. The Panel, which included a former fire-fighter, were all in agreement that something like that must not be allowed to happen ever again and that it essential that residents must be listened to when they have concerns over fire safety. Something which did not occur in relation to Grenfell.
Not surprisingly, on the day I was there, the most ‘in demand’ session saw Teresa May addressing delegates. Credit to her, it was never going to be the most receptive audience she has ever spoken in front of, but she cracked a joke or two (thankfully there was no dancing), and effectively talked about how her Government had reversed many of the unpopular housing policies of the former Government (without recognising it was the same Conservative-led administration) such as lifetime tenancies.
She was followed by Shadow Housing Minister John Healey who, knowing he was among friends, spoke about Labour’s housing plans and repeated the mantra about housing the many, rather than the few. It was very political but all very interesting, nonetheless.
So, I crammed a lot into my day and who knows I may still end up with my 15 minutes, or in my case 15 seconds, of fame, that is if I don’t end up on the cutting room floor!