The future’s bright, the future’s shapps?

Guest blogger Bill Peters writes

In the latest Inside Housing (4 May 2012) the current Minister Grant Shapps tells us ‘the future is bright’ and particularly in relation to social housing. While accepting that the government has challenged some of the conventions by which social housing has been run, this process was already underway under Labour. Moreover does he really think that his rather glib claim to have put strong foundations in place for a bigger and more viable social housing sector really convince anyone?

Mr Shapps spends a lot of time talking up his modest spending and policy commitments while pretending not to notice the deepening housing crisis which he is presiding over.

By contrast, today’s CLG Select committee report on housing finance and supply is a more considered reflection on where we are and where we need to be. It rather generously suggests Mr Shapps’ Laying the Foundations is a start but then argues the need for more investment to tackle the palpable housing shortage. The Committee recommends large-scale investment from institutions and pension funds, changes to the financing of housing associations, including a new role for the historic grant on their balance sheets, greater financial freedoms for local authorities and new and innovative models, including a massive expansion of self-build housing.

There is much food for thought here and it is important that the report is considered carefully and acted upon rather than batted away as is often the case. The reality is CLG has been lacking any detailed strategy based on an assessment of needs now and into the future – the report takes us in this direction. Housing should be leading the UK out of recession rather than driving it ever further into it through limited vision and leadership and a failure to secure the necessary resources from both the Treasury and the market.

Perhaps sound bites can take a back seat for a while and we can get down to some serious policy work?

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