The General Election already seems a long time ago. I have to admit to being a bit disappointed that we haven’t already seen a raft of commitments to infrastructure projects, as I thought the Government would act decisively in this respect.
The focus has so far been on reaffirming the commitment to the inception of a Northern Powerhouse; the basis of which still puzzles me. I know I sound like a scratched record, but what is it? What does it mean for the rest of the Country? Part of me hopes that another region comes forward and promotes exactly the same message as that which is emerging out of Greater Manchester – not because I wish to denigrate what the Mancunians are doing, but to prove the point that there needs to be a national plan for regions to work to, to ensure communication, compatibility, and productivity of output. That’s what a business would do; why is running a country any different?
Conversely, what has stubbornly refused to go away is the Government’s seemingly firm commitment to the sale of homes owned by housing associations. The FT’s article of the 14th June highlights the likely shortfall in value that will be created by such a move, but also provides an interesting insight from political heavyweight Ken Clarke, who either believes – or is a disciple to collective responsibility – that the initiative is a good thing: “Housing associations are the biggest private landlords in the country,” he said. “We need to get them selling those homes and building new ones with the proceeds.”
I think Ken Clarke is completely wrong on this. In an age when every commentator is briefing a generation of would-be home owners that they’d better realign their aspirations and get used to renting, it’s as important to focus on the management and protection of rented accommodation, and why it can meet modern lifestyles, as it is to change the tenure. That is, after all, part of the attraction of PRS. Housing associations are the most experienced sector of the housing market in looking after the interests of tenants. Equally, I only need to look at Iceni’s forward order book to see that they are behind some of our most ambitious and exciting projects – from wholesale estate renewal, to mixed use developments and custom build housing.
The unilateral sale of housing association accommodation should be kicked into touch, and the Government should redouble its focus on announcing coordinated infrastructure projects before its honeymoon is well and truly over.