This year we were lucky enough to visit the Housing Forum's 2019 National Conference ‘The Challenge of Change’ in London on the 9th May.
The Conference provided a well of information and some intriguing insights into the future of housing; including the need for partnership working and collaboration to deliver the affordable, quality and sustainable housing the UK desperately needs.
In this article we’ll be covering the key topics covered at the Housing Forum's 2019 National Conference as well as highlighting the trends and themes running through each issue and discussion addressed on the day.
Affordability and Renting
The affordability of houses has been a major issue across the UK for several decades now. With expectations set high in the mid-20th Century the reality of affordable houses for everyone is beginning to hit home. Data gathered across the UK suggests that 47% of renters struggle with paying their rent and 68% of those renting, would need to win the National Lottery to have any chance at buying a house for themselves! Furthermore, 4.9 million households, a staggering 1 in 5 of homeowners in the UK, are themselves struggling to keep up with housing costs.
Over the last decade we have seen several running trends within housing and these mainly centre around the rise of renting over home ownership. The Private Renting Sector has steadily risen to dominate 20% of housing, up from 9% ten years ago, and Social Housing has subsequently fallen from 40% to 18% of occupancies in the UK. With over 2.3 million landlords in the UK today, it seems rental is certainly overtaking the traditional concept of owning a house and this is having a detrimental effect on the housing sector.
However, the Government are taking steps towards helping the housing sector and increasing the number of homeowners in the UK. Tax relief for landlords are falling and stamp duty is rising by 3% to discourage private land lording and measures are being put in place such as the tenant fee ban and the abolishment of Section 21 which effects no fault evictions, to penalise the unfair practises of private landlords. Furthermore, councils are now being allowed to borrow money in order to start building houses again, an incentive no doubt designed to implement the Government’s aim to build over 300,000 new houses a year in the UK.
The Housing Crisis
Another headline issue raised at the National Conference this year was the Housing Crisis currently rocking the UK. Tying in with the topic of the affordability challenge, housing in the UK is being affected by more than just the rise of the Private Renting Sector and the struggle to purchase homes across the country.
Housing Associations are struggling to meet the housing needs of many seeking to own a home of their own due to rising building costs, low grants, a higher Retail Price Index and the high costs to their networks. This comes hand-in-hand with issues facing communities and homeowners in general across several Housing Associations including the need for support, sustainable housing and buildings which are affordable, safe and desirable to those wanting to buy them. As it stands, most consumers have little say on the designs of their homes, let alone the kind of communities they want to create within their neighbourhoods.
Unfortunately, skill shortages and a lack of local information makes the housing crisis an issue which seems to have been largely ignored or met with indecisiveness and most Government attempts at tackle the housing crisis have been largely London-centric, leaving many Housing Associations in the dark. In order to meet the demands and needs of consumers, as well as finding solutions to issues such as sustainability and affordability, it seems Housing Associations need to look to themselves if they want to solve the housing crisis.
A reoccurring topic amongst many sectors across the world, climate change is something which the housing sector simply cannot ignore. With issues surrounding sustainability and longevity within housing as well as the need to reduce emissions and other forms of environmentally damaging pollution in the building process and houses in general, climate change is certainly a central topic which must be addressed, and continue to be addressed, by Housing Associations and developers.
In terms of what needs to be done and what can be done to help make housing more eco-friendly and sustainable, there were several problems and solutions discussed at the Conference. In order to reach the new zero emission targets of 2050, as well as meet the demands of the other issues surrounding building and regulations discussed in the Paris Agreement, a clearer framework of standardisation needs to be put in place across the UK’s 2000 Housing Associations such as implementing Modern Methods of Construction across the sector. The relationship between housing and transport also need to be considered in an attempt to cut down on emissions and community led development needs to be encouraged in order to develop better homes that are eco-friendly, sustainable and lasting.
Finally, a focus on the use of prefabricated buildings as a possible solution to much of the issues raised by climate change revealed some intriguing insights for the future of housing. Being quick to build, energy efficient and more consistent with regulations and standards than standard builds, prefabricated buildings offer a sustainable solution to increasing housing demands, affordability and the impact of housing on the environment. Due to these benefits, we could see a rise in the use of prefabricated buildings within the housing sector in next decade and certainly as we look towards a more environmentally friendly future, this type of building may be the only solution to cutting emissions in the industry by the drastic amounts proposed for 2050.
Living Longer Well
A final major tackled at the Housing Forum's 2019 National Conference is what has been coined a “Silver Tsunami” as a growing proportion of the population live into their 80’s. How to make this a happy and productive time of life can create real challenges for individuals and for health and for housing professionals.. More than ever before we must focus on the relationship between housing and care for the elderly. Tying in with the creation of and supporting local communities within housing projects, the UK’s growing population of elderly residents is throwing up a number of issues which have previously been largely ignored by Housing Associations.
Unfortunately there is a current reluctance within the housing sector to ensure and encourage the older population to live well and comfortably in their homes and even middle aged homeowners are beginning to feel constrained by the options available to them as they grow older with many feeling that they are ‘stuck’ in the house they live in, whether it is suitable for them or not.
Instead, homes and communities need to be built that support the UK’s growing elderly population and Housing Associations need to provide a set of clear, affordable and sustainable options for elderly people to work with if they are struggling in their current occupancy. A big step towards helping to make these changes and improve the lives of the elderly within the housing sector is to create better means of engaging with local communities and homeowners as well as forging these secure communities in order to support our older generations.
The Housing Forum's 2019 National Conference certainly gave us a lot of food for thought and taught us a great deal about the current issues effecting the housing industry. From the threat of the Private Renting Sector to climate change, the housing crisis and our growing population of elderly homeowners, a couple of themes seem to have held true throughout the Conference.
The first of these is the need to create a formal standardisation across many of these issues, and for the Government to step in and help Housing Associations make the changes that are needed to meet these demands and their own. The Government is currently aiming to build 300,000 new homes per year however this is failing due to skill shortages, high costs and the rising costs of home ownership. A significant shortfall in affordable housing in the UK has led to a dominating Private Renting Sector which is in turn having a knock-on effect when it comes to the housing crisis as those struggling to pay their rents can’t even afford to consider home ownership.
Secondly, sustainability and engagement have been reoccurring themes throughout the discussions above. Housing Associations need to work more closely with local authorities and communities, strengthening them and supporting each other in order to build strong neighbourhoods which are supportive of their residents and can make cohesive moves towards lowering their emissions and creating sustain able solutions for the future.The Housing Forum's 2019 National Conference.