Homes for Britain rally, March 2015: Six quotes that rang true for me

This week saw over 2,000 people from Housing groups across the country converge on Parliament square and we went along to show Pocket’s support.  The objective was surprisingly simple – don’t let the housing crisis drop down the political agenda.

In the process of every general election, a range of issues start to shape the debate around the campaigns of the main parties but by the end, it’s the big beasts of Health, Education and Welfare that tend to dominate. So on Tuesday, housing associations, developers, architects, planners, social landlords and many more all came together to ensure that this doesn’t happen. The aim was to get senior politicians from all the major parties to commit to ending the housing crisis in a generation and delivering a comprehensive long term plan for housing within one year of taking office. And all credit to the organisers, they managed to get senior parliamentarians from all the major parties (and Nigel Farage) to commit to this aim.

But to some, this may seem like an opportunity missed in many ways. We’ve all seen the many and varied opinions on what is required to solve our housing crisis, so you would have thought that the campaign should be pushing for a “10 point plan” or some other policy wishlist. I’ve got to say that I thought the objective was a little vague until I heard all of the speakers and the pitches from the politicians and saw their body language around a question that is so self evidently easy to answer.

The reality is that we know what needs to happen: build more homes.  But it’s hard. It would be hard to do it even if there was cross party consensus about what sort of homes were needed and where. But the problem is dogged by national political ideology, local political rivalry, lack of the right tools and underscored NIMBYs. We have allowed housing to become the “riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma” of our time. Yet the most inspiring speakers on the subject on the Homes for Britain stage seemed to cut through the politics of it started to make some sense. Below are 6 quotes that I have lifted from 6 different speakers that talks to a side of the argument that I haven’t heard that much of. It tries to remove the politicians and the politicisation of the debate and gets to the heart of what we should be doing – not in policy terms but as people, citizens and communities.

The argument goes like this:

  • “cranking up the old house building machine won’t work, we need new solutions”
  • “the housing debate doesn’t take into account the changing demographics – it’s always looking back and not forward”
  • “we can’t blame the politicians all the time, we have to look at ourselves and work together as communities”
  • “it’s about the 3 Ps, Plots, Planning and Partnership (between the private & public sector)”
  • “we need to make building homes popular amongst communities”
  • “Let the rivalry [between communities] be a rivalry of achievement”

This argument asks us to look at ourselves before we look to our politicians. What can we do to help solve the housing crisis? What can we offer to developers to help them build? How can we make sure that our local knowledge gets used to make the right homes for the right people in the right places? In short, the politicians know that elections are not won on housing policies, so they’ll never care and we can’t wait for that to change but we can gather our communities together to make sure we build in our own communities, put pressure on councils and planners to say “come and build here” rather than “we don’t want that there.” We need to become YIMBYs not NIMBYs, we need to make it easy for the planners, we need to welcome the developers. That way we get the homes we need and it might even deliver the communities we want to be surrounded by.

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