Major new CIH project aims to ‘rethink’ the future of social housing

Terrie Alafat

Terrie Alafat

A major new project which will combine original research and engagement with the sector, tenants, politicians and the public to explore fundamental questions about the future of social housing has been launched by the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH).

Aiming to stimulate a wide-ranging debate about the future of the sector, Rethinking social housing will make the case for social housing while attempting to understand and challenge the perceptions of it.

CIH chief executive, Terrie Alafat CBE, said the project will influence and shape the direction of future housing policy and feed directly into the UK government’s housing green paper.

She added: “It is a crucial time for social housing and recent events, including the Grenfell Tower tragedy, have thrust social housing into the spotlight. We think there are a number of fundamental questions that we need to answer about its role and contribution.

“The government has committed to conducting a top-to-bottom review in its green paper but we want people who live and work in social housing to lead the debate about where it goes next – that is why we are launching Rethinking social housing.

“We want as many individuals and organisations to take part as possible and giving a voice to tenants and the public will be a crucial part of the project.

“We are delighted to have a group of leaders from across the sector on board. This is a project that will evolve and the group will continually assess the project based on its findings to guide its future work.”

Sponsors of Rethinking social housing include Sovereign, Home Group, Peabody, InCommunities, Optivo, Paragon, Riverside Group and South Liverpool Homes.

The project will have three steams of work:

Stream one will test and gather views on the role and purpose of social housing from, the housing sector and other associated professions including health and social care. It will focus on the key questions:

  • What is social housing?
  • Who is social housing for?

Stream two will capture a broader range of views of the role and purpose of social housing. It will focus on two key questions:

  • What is the public’s perception of social housing?
  • What the experiences and perceptions of people who live in social housing?

Stream three will seek to gain a clear picture of who currently lives in social housing, with the aim of improving public understanding. It will focus on two key questions:

  • Who is currently living in social housing?
  • What is the value of social housing?

Rethinking social housing will include original research, engagement and polling.

The project’s advisory group will be co-chaired by chief executive of the Law Commission and former Orbit chief executive and CIH president, Paul Tennant and Ken Gibb, professor in housing economics at the University of Glasgow and director the Collaborative Centre for Housing Evidence (CaCHE).

Co-chair Paul Tennant OBE said: “There’s no doubt that this is a crucial time to ask some fundamental questions about the role and purpose of social housing.

“This is set to be an extremely important project which will help us to define that role, make sure it is meeting people’s needs and ultimately make the case for social housing.”

Co-chair Prof Ken Gibb added: “I’m delighted to be involved in this project which addresses critical and timely questions.

“Complex questions should be addressed and answered using the rigorous application of evidence – this project will combine debate and engagement with original research to build a really solid foundation to answer important questions about the role and purpose of social housing.”

The first results are set to be published early next year with a final publication in June at Housing 2018 which will include recommendations to the sector and the government.

The advisory group for the project also includes Newcastle City Council, Oxford City Council, JRF, Northern Housing Consortium, National Federation of ALMOs, Association of Retained Council Housing, Royal Town Planning Institute and TPAS.