Taking the lead to provide low-cost housing

It is just a few days since the UK’s vote to leave the EU but, in this short time, we seem to be intent on tearing up everything that was in place before.

Government is in a hiatus, as politicians jockey for leadership position and commentators pick over concerns around the value of the pound, inflation, availability of credit, supply of housing and consumer sentiment resulting from an over-arching sense of uncertainty.

The referendum result has exposed the fault lines in our society and, ironically, made it more difficult for government to address inequalities and deliver on the expectations that have been invested in the vote to leave.

Housing issues, such as the difficulty in accessing an affordable home, highlight the tensions between people migrating to Britain, generational differences, the north/south divide and access to education and life chances.

So our future political leaders have a wider problem than Brexit to resolve and, for both the economic and social dimensions of this problem, housing is a key factor.

In previous downturns, a government-backed social housing sector kept developers afloat while delivering well-priced units for associations’ balance sheets. Leveraging increasing asset value and affordable rents in better times added to the sector’s ability to continue to develop.

But this is not 2008, and social housing providers are increasingly dependent on the market to cross-subsidise to deliver their product – homes that help everyone to feel they have a stake in society and a platform from which to build their lives. So the countercyclical safeguard is gone.

Our sector, through the National Housing Federation, is looking to re-position affordable housing and the relationship with government – and I think that now could be the best of times for this dialogue to take place.

Now is the time to demonstrate that, allowed the freedom to manage our own businesses, we will be able to build the homes that will help to mitigate the pervading anger about inequalities and the instability that threatens to depress confidence and growth.

If we make our case effectively, the government should at last realise why social housing providers are important – and why it is so important that Britain has a healthy low-cost housing market.