On the eve of Housing 2012
Steve Partridge, director of financial policy and development, talks about Octavia Hill, housing and the economy just a few hours before the Housing 2012 debates begin.
"2012 is the 100th anniversary of the death of Octavia Hill, leading Victorian social reformer whose ideas and energy in tackling issues in London’s slum housing areas led her supporters to found what would eventually become the Chartered Institute of Housing.
A great article by Anne Power in the Guardian this week highlights amongst other things that, were she alive today, she would find much still to do in tackling poverty, disadvantage and the worst aspects of government budget reductions on social housing tenants.
Whilst walking beside Derwent Water in the Lake District over the holiday weekend, I remembered that Octavia Hill was also a founder of the National Trust and I started to think what would she have made of the current debate around the need for new housing which can sometimes paint us as housing professionals as seemingly at odds with those that want to protect the countryside?
My CIH colleague Colin Wiles reminded me at a recent seminar that the amount of land built on in England is actually very low – 90% of us live on less than 10% of the land – and that, in footballing terms, if England were a football pitch, we would all be living comfortably within one penalty area.
On the eve of the CIH conference in Manchester, now’s the time for the housing world to really galvanise our case to government: to bring together the triangle of acute housing need, land availability and the need for investment in the economy; a case for housing, and in particular a case for affordable housing.
There are quick measures that could be taken now: better asset management, releasing the capacity in council housing through changing the rules on public borrowing or at least raising the debt cap, and encouraging investment through a more efficient housing tax regime.
As we all sit down and watch the football in the next 3 weeks, by my reckoning we could pretty much solve all of our housing supply issues by just building in the ‘D’ outside one penalty area. And this would still leave plenty of the pitch to continue to make open spaces available to the tenants and urban workers that Octavia Hill so fiercely campaigned for."
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