Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Homes for Britain - HfB

Homes for Britain is an initiative being taken by a significant number of organisations involved in the delivery of housing, including the RIBA, RTPI and the RICS the HQ of which hosted an event on 1 July. Go the web site to find the purpose, initially aimed at the political parties and candidates contesting the 2015 election. During a breakout, my partner and I thought of three things that had not yet emerged, 1, Ask the Germans (who do not seem to have the same level of difficulty with co-housing, build quality or a fair rental system, 2. Address the under-occupancy (and empty/second homes to bring new build targets down to achievable levels - attractive options for about 4m downsizers would be a good place to start. 3. Link to the think tanks that have the ear of the political parties to see whether ideological differences can be put to one side. However, HfB might not be the way to make progress on meeting housing needs. Dan's Plan starts with bringing the same organisations together in a quiet space and constructing a systems diagram which includes the social, economic and environmental elements of the housing system. The overall objective would be to provide access to a safe, energy efficient space for a growing population. To do so the team would have to identify the virtuous circles that can deliver sufficient affordable homes within the constraints of the Climate Change Act (actually new housing must be carbon negative as no other sector will get close to zero). The complexity of the housing system can be turned to advantage as every link has a potential for good but, and this is the trick bit, every policy and implemented change has to be part of a coherent pattern. Once a potentially virtuous circle has been identified attention can be focused on the obstacles and frictions. A strategy is then required to focus on the measures to remove obstacles through financial inducements (positive in the way of grants and tax breaks and possibly negative ones in the form of taxes) and education or re-education (like the courses provided to errant drivers). If I can anticipate that under-occupation will be found to be one of the main problems needing to be addressed on economic, environmental and social grounds, HfB could helpfully investigate how to increase the rate of downsizing. A helpful suggestion was that this should involve a family centered approach looking at typical family situations and what interventions could be seen to benefit all generations.

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