THERE’S no end of hot topics for the housing world to discuss, so Northern Housing Live is assembling some of the keenest minds from across the sector to put them under the spotlight. Below are some of the over-arching themes the conference will present in what promises to be a rich agenda…
Levelling up the North
Another political slogan is all we need, but there’s plenty of ways to give it some necessary substance. From devolution to investment, infrastructure to new homes, our regions have got the know-how to deliver; what we need is the joined-up support of government along with the tools to do the job. You could say this is the thread that binds all the themes we’ll be presenting at Northern Housing LIVE.
Solving the North’s Housing Crisis
We’re in the grip of a chronic housing crisis but it won’t be solved from a national perspective. The form it takes and the impact that’s felt varies by region and by locality, so there’s no easy universal fix. Mobilisation at a national level is a must, but regional coordination of locally led solutions holds the keys to success. Whether it’s identifying the local housing and infrastructure needs, releasing the necessary land, understanding the likely land remediation issues necessary to make it fit for development, and building trust with existing communities, local knowledge and attachment is essential for making regeneration work.
It’s not enough to build more homes. We need to build the right kind of homes in the right place, with a healthy mix of tenures. We need homes for sale, homes for rent, but we crucially need to end the neglect of social housing and build far more of these too. But to become the building blocks for vibrant communities, homes need connecting to places of work, leisure, retail, and the avenues of a meaningful social life. Access is vital, to accommodate those with a disability, or to adapt to the infirmities of age. How we design and build place, as well, as home is vital to creating neighbourhoods where the generations can thrive together and not live apart.
It never rains but it pours; climate change is here and now, as the latest round of severe flooding reminds us. We need better flood defences and smarter methods of handling rainfall and drainage. There is the urgent need to reduce carbon emissions by building new energy efficient ‘net zero’ homes. At the same time, we face the mammoth task of retrofitting existing homes to adapt them to tomorrow’s emerging climate reality. Better insulation and a shift to renewable energy sources, designed-in flood resilience, and a greater respect for biodiversity are critical to building homes fit for the future.
The Business of Delivery
Housing associations and councils don’t work alone in delivering the housing we need, and this is increasingly reflected in business models and day-to-day operations. Partnerships and joint ventures with public and private sector bodies are common; funding sources beyond traditional (though still vital) government grant are becoming more diverse, with private finance, pensions schemes, all contributing to the capital pot. Quite where and how social purpose survives within this emerging commercial environment is a perennial debate, but it’s a reflection of how business is changing. It doesn’t end there; new technologies promise to transform the management of properties, services and people alike. But this brings the added challenge of making sure residents the customers aren’t left behind and excluded by this new digital reality.
Fortunately, the North is no stranger to innovation. There’s a proud history of industry and invention in our region, and this remains very much the case today. With world leading universities, high tech businesses, a keen place in emerging green technologies, and our very own ‘construction corridor’ pushing the development of modern methods of construction, the Northern Powerhouse has a lot to offer. But it has the capability to do so much more...