How should housing associations prepare for the general election?

Mark Perry, 15 November 2019

While politicians come and go, we need to ensure that housing associations are here for the long term.

For a long time, you couldn’t listen to the radio or turn on the television without hearing about Brexit. Well now it’s been compounded by the up and coming general election on 12 December.

In the south east, we expect  to see widespread political change, with at last count 13 MPs standing down or changing seat, and that’s before any election night surprises. This means that Parliament is losing the benefit of years of local housing experience

But in all this change, the housing crisis is a constant. In 2017/18 the average (mean) house price in the south east was £376,567 and it’s even higher now. This means that if you want to buy a new home with say an 80% mortgage, you would need a combined income of £86,073. Or into the private sector you go with average monthly rents of £989 (2017/18).

And as a region we’re not building enough affordable homes, or homes for rent or shared ownership. In the South of England, we know there are 2.5 million people affected by the housing crisis, living in an unaffordable, insecure or unsuitable home.

So, at our South East Leaders’ Forum we’ve been discussing what this might mean for the region and what we can do to influence all things housing, given that housing associations are here for the long term, but our MPs might not be.

You might ask ‘why bother?’ or ‘how does this affect housing associations?’ At our latest forum meeting, we discussed how we rely on partnerships with politicians in different ways, in making the case for affordable development in communities, advocating for residents, and collaborating with other local services. MPs are involved in day to day housing casework – working with housing associations to find a positive and smooth outcome for residents.

Moving from local to national level, these relationships are key for national policy – three out of the last four housing ministers were all based in the south east, bringing their local experience into a job with consequences for housing associations all over the country.

We agreed some good, practical things we could do in the run up to the general election. So, our top three are:

See this as a priority, recognising that we can achieve the most impact with a collective response, that this is key to our ambition to work collaboratively for the region and to the long-term success of the sector;

Work out who the potential candidates are and contact them offering the opportunity for a discussion about how housing is a key issue locally, highlighting the difference we make to communities in their constituencies. The NHF have loads of resources to help with this.

Get behind and support the National Housing Federation’s general election campaign to #FixTheHousingCrisis for good. Housing associations have a fantastic story to tell about our impact, but there are also resources we can use to show the challenges we are facing.

That’s what we’ll be doing at VIVID in the run up to the election and we’re hopeful that others will follow suit. For the benefit of our sector and people in need of a place to call home.