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CIH Manchester - Day 03

The delegates have started to spread themselves thin and the sound of the odd drill echoes around the cavernous Manchester Central conference centre as day three of Housing 2021 got underway.

The CIH conference often has a quiet last day, and this year is no different. However it can be argued that overall the first in-person CIH conference has been a success, and best viewed as a test event considering the tumultuous 18-months. 

And, despite numbers feeling slightly lower than usual, the speaking agenda was a busy as ever. 

Presenting some number crunching of their own were Legal & General who, along with Plymouth Community Homes and Karbon Homes, discussed the intricacies of the UK’s levelling up agenda.

L&G’s Ben Denton said the investment behemoth is committed to the sector as part of its wider ambitions: “We believe we have a key role to play in levelling up and supporting the process [of levelling up itself].

“We think the challenge of levelling up and building a greener society are intrinsically linked.” 

It was noted that, if housing costs (such as asking prices or rent) were stripped out of calculations, then the general standard of living was roughly equal across the country. As such housing formed a key part of the levelling up agenda, with housing and place considered by the public as one of the key aspects of their lives that could be improved.

The third day can occasionally allow time for fresh ideas to be aired, with one session ambitiously looked to tackle the entire future of housing. Some decent proposals did shine through, such as HA’s being urged to appoint more young people to their board to help spur on change within their organisations.

Similarly, accelerating the plans many housing providers have in terms of including more ethnic diversity within their boardrooms has also been aired repeatedly during the three days. 

Housing providers were also urged to look to Wales for inspiration, with one delegate commentating: “Wales is on a different scale to England [in terms of size] and there is a lot that England could learn from what Wales is doing. In Wales they have the future generations act - and a real focus on wellbeing.

“It is something that England can take on. And make decisions and understand how that can impact on future generations and housing’s link to wellbeing.”

One of the seemingly glaring omissions from the conference speaker however was mention of the Charter for Social Housing. It took until the closing remarks from communities minister Robert Jenrick himself before this correspondent heard the phrase mentioned on stage.

Commenting on aspects of the Charter Jenrick said: “As a result of these measures, I'm hopeful that we will see a shift in the culture, towards the renewal of the ideals that inspired the pioneers in the sector, whether that be Octavia hill or George Peabody.

“If they were here with us today. I expect that their farsighted vision is looking at the generational challenges we face [...]

“The social housing white paper is backing professionals working in the sector to raise these standards by a review of qualifications, and professional training available to the sector, which we plan to begin this autumn. I know that the vast majority of you do a very good job of your residents, and I appreciate all of your efforts. There is unfortunately a minority who fall below those standards and give the good name of the sector a bad image.”

Issues within the Charter itself were of course tackled individually across the three days, however in the coming year the sector may begin to work on a more holistic approach to cover multiple aspects of what the Charter will challenge them to do.

In all, Housing 2021 can be viewed as the first step in the sector getting its own house in order, the disruptions of Covid-19 are still present, however many are beginning to try and look forward once again.

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