As the Labour Party reinforces its commitment to the sector, Thrive Homes’ chief executive, Elspeth Mackenzie explores what societal impact affordable housing has on the UK
Affordable housing transcends the confines of mere shelter; it is the cornerstone of a nation’s economic prosperity.
Addressing this fundamental human need isn’t just a social obligation; it’s an economic imperative that sparks growth, creates jobs, and nurtures communities.
A key factor often overlooked is the wide range of affordable housing choices. These options, from affordable rent to shared ownership, are what helps unlock economic growth.
Empowering and providing everyone with a stable home, and the opportunity to own a bit of something, gives people an opportunity to build their lives, and potentially something they can pass on.
Housing holds paramount importance, not just on a national scale but within the very fabric of individual lives. It is the embodiment of security, shaping the future and prosperity of families. Having options for individuals to access as their circumstances allow is important, as it enables people to feel that they have agency.
Products such as shared ownership and rent to buy fill the middle ground for those who do not qualify for social rent but need support to achieve their aspirations.
Being denied a means to fulfil a reasonable aspiration of having a home is corrosive and at scale impacts society and individuals. Whether or not residents fully own their homes, the opportunity to have a stake is a powerful concept. It offers not only a sense of protection but also a valuable asset to pass on to future generations.
People invest more than just money in their homes; it’s an emotional investment—a canvas on which they paint their aspirations and dreams. Homes represent not just shelter but a space where one’s image is created.
The emotive nature of this topic is profoundly evident. Working in housing we see examples daily of the transformative impact of having a home.
For example, the family where the parents were able to move their two children from a cramped overcrowded council flat; into a three-bedroom home, of which they owned 30%. They were settled and the children each had their own bedroom and a garden.
Fuelling economic activity
Our sector isn’t just about buildings, be that developing new or rejuvenating old, it’s about stimulating economic activity in a multitude of ways.
The sector invests in construction and development of housing projects , creating a significant demand for labour, materials and services, which in-turn boosts the wider construction sector, creating jobs and stimulating economic activity.
Investments and funding from various sources including national government grants; private investors also leads to an influx of capital which fuels further growth.
The injection of investment capital also serves to drive other wider social benefits as much of it comes from pension funds thereby creating a positive cycle of good beyond the homes that it has built.
A thriving housing sector cultivates a wide array of employment prospects.
The construction and management of affordable housing projects generate a plethora of job opportunities, particularly within the construction sector.
As a key industry player, we offer stable and diverse roles, significantly contributing to the economic vigour of our communities. Social housing providers are in the forefront of improving the efficiency of the housing stock, and this level of demand underpins the development of ‘green’ businesses which are creating new employment opportunities.
“Housing holds paramount importance, not just on a national scale but within the very fabric of individual lives.”
Strengthening small businesses
Affordable housing has far-reaching impacts beyond the physical structures. It nourishes the surrounding business ecosystem.
By sourcing goods and services locally, small businesses are bolstered, amplifying social value. Community support extends to local agencies like the Citizens Advice Service (CAS), ensuring a symbiotic relationship between housing associations and the wider community.
Relationships with local authorities
Our collaboration with local authorities (LAs) encompasses a spectrum of contributions, ranging from economic support through S106 commitments on developments, to establishing robust partnerships.
A fundamental aspect of this collaboration is assisting LAs in addressing the pressing housing needs within their areas. Temporary accommodation often strain their budgets significantly; therefore, our commitment to housing people from the waiting list and to developing new homes contributes to a council’s ability to manage their resources.
Moreover, our collaboration extends to broader development partnerships. We strive to work in harmony with LAs across diverse issues, pooling our resources and expertise for the benefit of the community.
Through funding initiatives, we’ve supported the employment of domestic violence support workers, creating invaluable resources that serve both our residents and the wider community.
In our approach to property lettings, we prioritise responsiveness to individual needs. This includes adapting homes to cater to specific requirements, ensuring individuals can seamlessly transition into properties that meet their unique circumstances. By facilitating this, we enable residents to find a home that is just right for them or to remain in a community where they have an extensive support network.
Our efforts transcend conventional funding streams, showcasing our commitment to holistic community well-being.
Promoting individual well-being
Affordable housing is a crucial step toward financial stability and progress.
People’s needs change over time and our active promotion of mutual exchanges enables residents to swap homes with other social housing residents, ensuring they reside in the most suitable environments for their circumstances.
These swaps increase a sense of agency – of being able to make choices and influence outcomes as well as getting people to the place they want to be.
Central to our mission is tenancy sustainment. We work diligently to support customers who may find themselves in a different set of circumstances helping to navigate the benefits system to maximise income, to prevent tenancy loss, and access budgeting/debt advice.
Eviction bears significant social and individual costs, reinforcing the necessity of our efforts in securing stable tenancies.
Envision a world devoid of affordable housing—a society lacking in vital stability and opportunities.
While we may not possess an abundance, what we do have is immensely powerful. This ‘some’ has the transformative ability to enhance lives, invigorate economies, and elevate communities.
It represents an investment in our shared future—a future where safe, affordable housing is a fundamental right, forming the solid foundation of a flourishing and prosperous society.
So, despite all of the current challenges, let’s not lose sight of this potential, and invest wholeheartedly in a brighter tomorrow for every individual.
Main image: Elspeth Mackenzie is the chief executive of Thrive Homes
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