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Public needs to understand the national, social, economic importance of housing

All of us tend to want to see the world in simple terms. And indeed simplicity is absolutely key to getting clear and compelling messages across to the public and politicians not just about why housing matters… but also what needs to change.

And herein lies the problem. Life just isn’t that simple. The recent Social Attitudes Survey illustrates the momentum building around the issue of housing… but also the complexity which sits behind it.

So while more than half of the population (56%) now agree we need more homes (compared to 29% in 2010) and opposition to new homes collapsed from 46% to just 21%, data around what is seen as the solution is more problematic – even now helping first time buyers is the runaway favourite at 38% compared to funding housing associations and councils at 27%. Fundamentally then, housing in this country is still seen as a primarily private concern, which makes the case for state funding in an age of on-going austerity a challenging one to make. That is the brutal reality and we must accept it before we can change it.

The good news is that the first battle – to establish consensus that there is a problem – has been won. All major parties agree on this. But to change the game, we need to fundamentally shift a public conception of housing as a primarily private concern to one of wider national social, economic importance. This will take time. But I believe it can be done.

At the core of this argument is the concept that housing is part of the UK infrastructure. From that recognition will flow both funding and a more benign policy environment. Influential bodies such as the CBI, BPF and others have joined the NHF in making this case as part of the Homes for Britain campaign.

So as a sector, while we need to make the case for more investment in social housing, firstly we need to get the public and politicians to understand, accept and support the broader strategic concept that housing is part of the same vital national infrastructure as energy, transport and digital – all of which also have a strong private dimension too. That – and only that – will enable us to solve the housing crisis for the long-term.

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Written by Boris Worrall | Posted on 25th March 2015

Boris Worrall is Executive Director of Futures at Orbit, a 38,000 home housing organisation

Website: http://www.orbit.org.uk/