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Building homes and lives

PlaceShapers annual member conference, held on 16th November, the exact day the BBC film Cathy Come Home was aired 50 years ago, assessed how much has changed and committed to ‘strain every sinew’ to build the homes the country needs and support the homeless.

PlaceShapers track record of building homes – with at least 32,000 more being built – and supporting the most vulnerable is  part of the solution to  growing homelessness and inequality.

Opening the conference PlaceShapers chair Sinead Butters said: “With homelessness shamefully increasing to eye watering levels, the most vulnerable in society at risk of seemingly random ill-considered policy shifts, and a housing crisis front and centre, maybe things aren't that much different at all. We are people of action. We care passionately about our customers and tenants, about our neighbourhoods and communities because we are our communities. We shape our services around the people we support, and we work hard to ensure that their voice is heard.

“We know that we deliver important lasting impact, and that impact takes many forms, and with independent boards we chose our path. We know that there is a housing crisis, that we need to strain every sinew to build more of all tenures. To deliver local housing for local people with our local authority partners.

Street homeless theatre company Cardboard Citizens’ performance of ‘Your Options’ was the focal point part of a panel discussion of PlaceShapers role in tackling homelessness in 2016 (production pictured top and panel pictured middle on right).

Jon Sparkes, CEO of Crisis, talked of the homelessness marches in London in the year following Cathy Come Home which gave impetus to legislation in the 1970s to protect homeless families and his hopes that the new Homelessness Reduction Bill will provide much needed improved support for the single homeless in the light of shocking increases in rough sleeping

Campbell Robb, CEO, Shelter expressed sadness that Shelter still needed to exist after 50 years and said that while progress had been made “Every statistic that we look at Shelter is going the wrong way.” He called on housing associations to reflect on their core purpose and do everything possible to provide more genuinely affordable homes.

David Bogle, CEO, Hightown, and chair of Homes for Cathy (20 housing associations formed in the period of Cathy Come Home) said it was the enduring value of PlaceShapers which meant we were making a difference. He said: “Going forward we needed to build more homes and hostels and look at all ways we can to house more homeless people.”

Philippa Jones, CEO, Bromford said; “We have to be bigger and braver in conversations with local authority partners about housing homeless people.”

Charlie Norman, CEO, St Vincent’s HA, talked of the work being done in Manchester where street homeless was on the increase in the session chaired by Paul Doe, CEO, Shepherds Bush Housing Group.

The context and political environment was given by Professor Danny Dorling, from Oxford University’s School of Geography & the Environment. He highlighted growing economic and housing inequalities and “flatlining” mortgage approvals and said: “Theresa May's government appears more disposed towards housing associations than the Cameron administration with warmer words about flexibility of support and hints that policy that promoted home ownership alone is now recognised to be flawed. Other European countries succeed with a high proportion of people enjoying good quality renting.

“The autumn statement on 23 November will be the test of this along with a promised white paper that will set out a more comprehensive policy approach. Whether that turns out to be genuinely comprehensive and of a long-term nature that would attract wider political support remains to be seen.”

Julian Ashby, Chair of the Homes and Communities Regulation Committee, said that there was no bigger or more articulate advocate of the benefits of a diverse sector than PlaceShapers and welcomed the network’s involvement in a new model to better demonstrate sector efficiency in delivering new homes and added value services.

The ninth conference concluded with Lucy Adams, former head of human resources and communication at the BBC and now managing director of Firehouse, who inspired members with her thoughts on effective approaches to employee engagement.

Homes for Cathy performance phones

Homes for Cathy discussion

 Sienad opening

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