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In ‘divided’ times, housing is more important than ever

The role of the housing sector is ‘more important than ever’, the chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) said today as she opened the organisation’s annual conference in Manchester.

Terrie Alafat told delegates the ‘one thing that unites us all is our need to have a place to call home’.

‘If the shock general election result and the last 12 months have taught us anything, it’s that our society is more divided than it has ever been. Divided politically, financially, by generation and by ideology,’ she said in her opening speech.

‘People in our communities face challenges every day, and those challenges are different for each person,’ she added.

‘In such times our role at the heart of our communities is more important than it has ever been.’

She paid tribute to the victims of the Grenfell Tower tragedy and called on the government to address an imbalance in housing funding, to review unfair welfare policies and tackle homelessness.

A minute’s silence was held at the start of the conference to remember the victims of the Grenfell Tower tragedy and new sessions have been added to the programme to explore fire safety issues.

‘We were part of a group of organisations which met with the housing minister following this terrible incident to look at what the response of the government and the sector should be, both in the immediate aftermath and in the long term,’ said the chief executive.

‘I want to make one thing absolutely clear – we will be doing everything we can to play our part in making sure this never happens again.’

The CIH published new research today, which reveals in some areas of the country rents have increased dramatically compared to earnings between May 2011 and May 2017.

In London rents rose by 22% over the period, nearly four times faster than the projected increase in average earnings of just 6%.

And a new survey by Ipsos MORI for CIH has found that 52% of private renters across the UK are concerned they will not be able to afford their housing, 56% report a great deal or fair amount of stress being caused by housing costs, and 44% think they might have to move from their area in the future because the cost of housing is too high.

‘Taken together, the polling and the results of our research paint a very stark picture of the choices facing many people today,’ said Ms Alafat.

‘Too many people are struggling,’ she added. ‘Too many are trapped in a situation where housing they can afford is simply inaccessible in their community and, in the worst cases, they are becoming homeless.

‘This has to change. We have to build more of the right homes, in the right places and we have to do it now.’

‘We’re calling on our new government to take another look at this imbalance, because the simple truth is, we need direct investment in genuinely affordable housing if we’re going to solve the housing crisis,’ she told the conference.

  • Read New Start’s housing coverage here.

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