Social housing could become place of last resort, conference told

8 Jul 15

Council and housing association properties risk becoming the “A&E of housing”, a place for people who are in crisis, the CIPFA conference was told today.

Julia Unwin, chief executive of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, said the labour market produced very little progression for the bottom 25% of workers.

“It looks to me that social housing may well become the last resort, the A&E of housing, where you go in a crisis but don’t stay for long,” she said.

“Social housing [risks] becoming a temporary place, it is no longer part of the infrastructure, its no longer part of the platform which we build stable lives and raise the next generation. Its an emergency response.”

She told delegates that this should all “make us sit up and think about what it is we are offering”, because tools such as education, business opportunities and training have always been vital to help left people out of poverty.

“We are turning those off one-by-one unless we are very careful,” Unwin warned.

“I believe in this room that there are a huge number of tools that can address this.”

She said it was not up to the government alone to reduce poverty, adding that this should be a “wake up call for all of us to [enhance] our services.”

“We need strategies that involve people who are living in poverty because they would understand the most about what it takes to get out of poverty,” Unwin said.

Dame Clare Tickell, chief executive at Hanover Housing Association, told the same session that she was concerned housing associations viewed themselves as inside a “bubble” and often only saw themselves as providers of housing without actually taking a step back to think about the “huge positive impact we have”, particularly in terms of health and social care.

Agreeing with Unwin, Tickell said: “Good homes provide the foundation for helping individuals including, the old and the young to avoid painful and unnecessary events, that are also costly to the public purse.”

“Getting the housing offer right and the services facilitated by those homes is key to prevention, which needs better evidence to get more money to support it.” she added.

She stated that clear strategies were needed between local authorities and housing associations to innovate and provide the impetus for change. 

  • Judith Ugwumadu

    Judith Ugwumadu joined Public Finance International and Public Finance online as a reporter after stints at Financial Adviser, Global Security Finance and The Sunday Express. Currently, she writes about public finance, public services and economics.

    Follow her on @JudithUgwumadu_

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