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06 July 2020

Influencing for a better future

Influencing for a better future
In November 2016 we asked a question: “over the next 20 years, what difference will you make?”

Another question came in response . . . “what if?”

What if good housing was seen as a basic right for all in Wales? What if housing was genuinely seen as the starting point for successful lives and successful places?

Throughout 2017, 500 vision makers from housing associations and our partner organisations across Wales challenged themselves to think about what it would mean for people to live in communities where good housing was a basic right for all.

A picture emerged of good housing as a prerequisite for prosperous, healthy and connected communities. We wanted to play our part in achieving this and set sector-wider ambitions that over the next 20 years we would work in partnership to build 75,000 homes, decarbonise our housing stock, invest 95p in every pound in our local communities, create thousands of jobs and training opportunities, and provide services and settings that keep people out of hospital.

Since then we have been busy.

We have called for changes to policies, funding and structures that were blocking our path. We have seen a range of reviews propose big changes: to the way that housing is funded and designed; the way that land is made available; the energy efficiency of new and existing homes; the investment we can make to people’s health and wellbeing, and to end homelessness in Wales.

We have continued to work at relationships and partnerships. We have seen housing get a seat at the table at Regional Partnership Boards and examples of collaboration in supply and services up and down Wales.

We have invested in building innovative capacity and collaboration across our own sector, and 114 attendees across 98% of our membership participated in our Housing Futures programme earlier this year to work together to solve housing’s biggest challenges.

But we know that time doesn’t stand still. The biggest barriers we face as a sector and as a society to achieve our vision will take persistence to break down because often they have taken decades and even generations to become embedded.

We know that the Covid-19 crisis has exposed existing inequalities, fractures and fissures within our society on a grand scale.

We know that the looming economic crisis, on top of a public health crisis, has the potential to embed and strengthen inequality and poverty - setting us back rather than forward.

Within just a few months the pandemic has resulted in a fundamental shift in the way that we live, work and play. Every life has been affected in some way, with many experiencing devastating loss, or emotional or financial hardship.

No individual, community or business has been untouched, and for many, that has meant a real and possibly long-lasting impact.

It has already caused an economic shock in the short term that has seen the number of claimants of Universal Credit more than double. GDP has dropped to a 300-year low and projections from the Bank of England make it clear that Wales and the rest of the UK is likely to be entering into a period of significant and prolonged recession

The importance of a good home has been exposed on a grand and very public scale during the lockdown period. The inequality in standards, space, connectivity and access to outdoor space has had a very clear impact on people’s ability to protect themselves and their families during a public health crisis and presents a hazard to people’s mental health and wellbeing.

We know that housing is a big part of the answer but that is just one part.

We know that we can’t do it alone and that there are many organisations, campaigns, people and political parties debating and thinking about changes that would make a difference.

The Welsh Parliament elections are due to take place in 2021 following a period of social and economic upheaval, the likes of which we haven’t seen since the Second World War. Given the size and pace of change and the likelihood that a settled state is some way off, we need to influence, innovate and develop solutions in a different way.

Our programme of work aimed at influencing for a better future is an opportunity to do just that. Over the next 12 weeks, we want to have a conversation with our members, political parties, partners and others to pause, take stock of progress and identify the biggest barriers in our way to lasting social change, and to make Wales a place where good housing is a basic right for all.

More information on the programme can be found here.