Tackling industry issues at Housing 2012
Alan Ferguson, director of CIH Scotland, talks about some of the key issues being challenged at Housing 2012.
There can be doubt that we're all living in challenging times. Ok, things in the UK are not nearly as bad as we're seeing in other parts of Europe such as Greece, Italy or Spain, but as Robin Lawler, the CIH president, said, life is getting worse for the communities we serve.
Household incomes are falling and as Paul Johnson from the Institute of Fiscal Studies said we're all being squeezed - other than the top 2%. We all know though that austerity hits those on low incomes hardest.
The conference is a great opportunity to catch up with colleagues, to network, to socialise, to hear from a wide range of great speakers on all the hot topics. But it also enables us to understand the issues affecting us, because by understanding them we can be better prepared to tackle those issues now - and in the future.
Housing 2012 should help us challenge ourselves to ensure we really are doing all we can for housing and our communities. And when we're back at the office, this theme should continue - we have to challenge our staff and our Board Members to always improve and deliver quality housing, quality services and quality communities.
Everyone who works in housing knows the benefit of good quality affordable housing - for the economy, for jobs, for health, for education and for helping reduce crime and anti-social behaviour. Unfortunately too many of our politicians still don't get this as we can see from the significant cuts made to housing across the UK.
The housing sector needs to make a stronger, more sophisticated - and a more unified - case for housing because if Paul Johnson is right that we've still to see 80% of the cuts, then there are real dangers for the provision of housing, for supply, for access, for communities across the UK.
This means challenging the myth that we can build housing without any kind of subsidy. As both Alison Thain and Keith Exford said during the conference, housing for those on low incomes still needs subsidy and we should not be afraid to say it. Indeed we have to shout it loud and clear.
Two other issues have come up during Housing 2012 which need to be challenged. The first is view held by many that social housing restricts social mobility. Thankfully the social mobility and social housing Parliamentary Taskforce Report knocks that one firmly on the head, saying that there is no evidence that social housing inhibits mobility.
The second one is continuing to challenge the stigma that social housing has. We all know that housing organisations across the UK are doing a brilliant job in ensuring sustainable housing and sustainable mixed communities and in the process provide quality housing management services, tackle anti-social behaviour and help tackle worklessness. We have to continue this great work and tackle those who continue to talk down social housing.