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BLOG: Homes for all: changing the housing conversation
Following the launch of Homes for All: A vision for England’s housing system, Professors Alex Marsh and Ken Gibb, and Dr Alice Earley, who produced the report and its outputs […]
Published: 23 Apr, 2024

Following the launch of Homes for All: A vision for England’s housing system, Professors Alex Marsh and Ken Gibb, and Dr Alice Earley, who produced the report and its outputs alongside David Orr, break down the impetus behind the work and the transformative effect it can have on housing affordability in England.

As we approach the General Election many housing stakeholders are offering their thoughts on where next for housing policy in England (Whitehead and Crook, 2024; National Housing Federation, 2023; Social Market Foundation, 2024). The next Government is being presented with a plethora of reports and a broad range of proposals. Some represent well-established asks, while others are perhaps a little less familiar. These contributions repay close attention.

The Church of England and the Nationwide Foundation have independently published high profile reports of housing commissions (in 2021 and 2020 respectively). In 2023 they decided to join forces and collaborate with the aim of offering a distinctive intervention in the housing policy debate. They approached CaCHE to work with them on this. Over the last six months we, along with Alice Earley, have been collaborating with David Orr to support the Church of England and the Nationwide Foundation to deliver this project. The main output of this project – the report Homes for All: a vision for England’s housing system – is published today.

The report is distinctive in several ways.

First, it eschews policy recommendations. Rather than add to the already long list of such recommendations it argues that what we need is to change the conversation. If we truly appreciate the manifold channels through which housing impacts households, the economy and society, then it will be seen for the urgent policy priority that it is. Homes for All argues that a key ingredient missing from the English housing policy conversation is a clearly articulated vision of what “good” looks like. Can we establish a cross-party agreement regarding what we are trying to achieve? The report offers a vision of what a well-functioning housing system would look like. This draws on conversations with stakeholders from across the political spectrum and the housing policy community. This provides us with an orientation for assessing policy proposals: do they move us closer to achieving a well-functioning system?

We’ve already mentioned the word ‘system’ several times and this is the second way in which the report is distinctive. To note that housing is a system is not news. And nor is it news that the housing system is interconnected with a range of other important systems – health, social security, the labour market, and so on. But the report seeks to take this seriously in arguing not only for more systemic analysis but also more explicitly systemic governance of housing. Central government has a key role to play in this by providing system leadership: convening and carrying with them the public, private and not-for-profit stakeholders who must play a role in the work of transformation required.

The third feature of the report is that not only is it forward-looking and long-term – the system transformation we need is going to take a generation – but it also argues that the architecture of housing governance should be reformed in order to ensure that housing policy has sufficient focus, priority and urgency to achieve our shared goal. One of the weaknesses of housing governance over the last two decades has been the lack of stability and consistency – how many housing ministers have we had? – and lack of priority given to housing across Government. Reforming the governance of housing is necessary if we are to deliver the constancy of purpose needed to hasten a well-functioning housing system. The reforms proposed include the introduction of a Housing Strategy Committee to provide challenge to government policy proposals to ensure they continue to align with the long-term goal. This will learn from both the successes of, and challenges to, the Climate Change Committee, which plays a somewhat similar role in relation to the net zero agenda.

While the report launched today covers plenty of ground, much of the analysis and argument has not been included. To do otherwise would be to render the report indigestible to a – hopefully – broad readership. There will, therefore, be a complementary academic report published through CaCHE in due course. This offers a broader discussion of the systems and future thinking that sits behind the main report.

The Homes for All report can be downloaded here.

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