Winning hearts and minds in the battlefield of housing delivery

Firing the starting gun on a once in a lifetime opportunity to overhaul delivery, Shelter certainly caused a stir with the launch of its social housing commission report.

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The long-term economic case for investing in more social housing was compelling, but it doesn’t tell the whole story.

The reality is that privately-rented homes, social housing and homes for sale are all needed to solve our country’s chronic shortage of homes.

And sadly, figures that illustrate housing need – even when they are as staggering as three million – aren’t often enough to act as the catalyst for change alone.

The government may have lifted borrowing caps for local authorities in an attempt to set hares running, but there’s only so much ground that can be made up if councils don’t have the resources, skills, or even political will to follow behind the finance.

Local authorities are simply out of practice when it comes to delivering social housing on such a large scale and cannot change overnight.

And that’s not the only ‘how’ that is problematic.

To reach even current housing targets, there’s the question of proper planning and ensuring the right infrastructure is in the right places to support it.

But there’s also another battle here to fight – and one that too often gets overlooked, despite it being the sniper fire that often undermines housing delivery.

While government, charities and industry bodies may acknowledge the severity of the housing crisis we face, too many local communities don’t see this as an overriding issue.

It’s all too easy to divorce the headline-hitting statistics from what it means at a human level – people and families in desperate need of somewhere to live.

So, it becomes more palatable to do the bare minimum or put it off for another day. Yet the solution lies in creating new communities and intensifying existing urban development.

On this front, there’s still some resistance – those with a home see it as something to protect more than something they want others to have too.

Winning hearts and minds at a regional and local level is critical to helping communities understand the social need for homes in their area, and the wider benefits they could bring.

These solutions aren’t always going to be easy or popular, but future development depends on far better informed and consulted communities.

Given the scale of the feat ahead of us, engaging effectively with communities has never been more important – but in this digital age, it’s never been easier either.

TV campaigns were used to promote New Towns in the 1940s.

With the range of tools and technology at our disposal today (from social media to digital advertising) we’re better placed than ever before to reach the right people and open up the constructive dialogue we need around housing development and delivery.

Ultimately, to deliver more homes across all tenures, we need to deliver a more seismic change in popular attitudes first.

A repeated refrain from Tuesday’s event was that the government can’t do this alone. As with all great national challenges, we ignore the home front at our peril.

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