Housing 2021 ended how it started: with a no-show from a sitting housing minister.
But where Chris Pincher delivered his Day 1 address via a pre-recorded video message, Jenrick spoke to the audience on Day 3 live from his Marsham Street hideaway, making the address something of a more interactive affair.
In keeping with many of this year’s speakers, Jenrick was keen to address the growing issue of climate change and decarbonisation – an area in which “the social housing sector is leading the way in many ways”.
“The housing sector is rising to the decarbonisation challenge, but we have to accept that it is a very difficult challenge to meet,” said Jenrick.
The Housing secretary urged local authorities to produce and enact a decarbonisation plan, if they had not already done so.
“I believe that no local authority can be serious about net-zero if they don’t have a local plan,” he said.
Elsewhere in his speech, Jenrick was unafraid to address to a number of high-profile issues that the housing sector has been dealing with over the past year.
On what Jenrick perceived as “excessive” executive pay, he said “it is clear there needs to be changes”.
Jenrick added that he would like to see a “renewal of the ideals of the pioneers of the sector”.
Alluding to recent reports of maladministration and tenant neglect on the part of some organisations within the sector, Jenrick said that “there are a small minority who give the name of the sector a bad image”.
“The vast majority do a very good job for your tenants,” he added.
On housing delivery, Jenrick said the UK was “in touching distance” of delivering the number of homes needed.
And because of the number of new homes that have been built over the past couple of years, Jenrick said that “up to 250,000 more families get to enjoy the security and pride of having a home of their own”.
He added that the increased adoption of modern methods of construction (MMC) had played a role in boosting housing delivery.
“I strongly encourage those who have yet to turn their attention to MMC to do so,” he said.
Jenrick ended with a call to action on homelessness, saying the issue “will require a serious, concerted effort” this autumn.
He also urged local authorities to review their plans on homelessness, if they had not already done so.
CIH presidential address
Jenrick wasn’t the only big name to make a (virtual) appearance on Day 3, with sitting Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) president Jo Richardson turning up in person to deliver her presidential address.
The focus of Richardson’s address was Homeful, her chosen presidential campaign that will run throughout her tenure.
“Homelessness is truly a scourge on a modern wealthy country such as the UK,” said Richardson.
The Homeful campaign seeks to build on the response to homelessness and rough sleeping during the pandemic, exploring housing-led approaches to resolve and prevent homelessness.
To achieve this, Richardson called on the government to meet to meet its pledge to end rough sleeping and to place a “high priority” on this goal.
Richardson also urged the housing sector to “do more” to prevent and address homelessness in all its forms – including ‘hidden homelessness’, such as those staying with family members or friends.
“Please think about what you can do to support the Homeful campaign over the next year,” she said.
The levelling-up agenda
Aside from the green agenda, housing delivery, and homelessness, the much-peddled ‘levelling-up’ agenda was another big talking point among key speakers on Day 3.
Charlotte Carpenter, director of Development and Regeneration at Karbon Homes, said “you cannot level up if you don’t have a good home”, echoing what Andy Burnham said on Day 2 of the conference.
She added that the “explicit goal” of the levelling-up agenda should be to “enable every individual and every community to meet their full potential”.
Carl Brazier, director for Homes and Neighbourhoods at Plymouth City Homes, agreed for the most part, though focussed more on the role social housing providers can play in enabling the goals of the agenda.
“Levelling-up means improving the lives of our customers and those most disadvantaged in society,” he said.
Brazier also noted that “levelling-up will mean different things in different parts of the country”.
“There’s no one-size-fits-all,” he added.
Elsewhere in the arena, there was discussion around what ‘levelling up’ actually means, with some calling for a formal definition of the term.
The sun has shone on much of Housing 2021, but as delegates make their way to their trains and cars and the rain starts to fall over Manchester, one has to wonder whether words will have turned into action by the time Housing 2022 rolls around.
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