Blog: Looking at the big policy picture

cross_country_policy_newsCIH is in a unique position to look at how housing policy is changing across the UK. With a policy presence in each nation it can take a look at the big picture. So what’s happening, what’s different, and what’s the same? Jon Barnes takes a look at the findings of CIH’s recent briefing for members.

Before we get into looking at the broad trends: if you’re a member of CIH, download the briefing and check out the policy situation in each nation side-by-side. It’s been compiled by a policy lead from each of the four UK nations, and compares policy in 8 headline areas. Done that? Great, let’s take a look at what we can learn.

The big picture is that housing policy continues to diverge, as devolution allows each nation to follow a path that suits the local context. Contrary to the established idea that the biggest divergences are happening between England and everyone else, there’s actually a significant level of difference emerging between Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

The different approaches to the right to buy illustrate this quite neatly. With England looking to extend the right to buy, the easy assumption would be that the other nations were looking to end it. Whilst that is true for Scotland, where it ends for all social tenants in August 2016, and Wales, where the legislation to end it will be introduced in this Assembly term, it doesn’t ring true for Northern Ireland. In Northern Ireland the House Sales Scheme, as right to buy is known there, is under review with the stated aim of ‘enhancing’ the scheme, alongside some potential tweaks to protect stock (although the picture is obviously always changing!).

Another piece of the puzzle revealed by looking at the policy picture in one place is the idea that just because something is not devolved it doesn’t mean there isn’t a complex policy picture in the other nations. Welfare reform, whilst currently a non-devolved issue, is being handled in entirely different ways in each nation. With Scotland set to obtain powers over taxation, borrowing and social security through the Scotland Act 2016, this is an area to keep an eye on for future change.

Overall there is a point of learning to be had from looking at the policy picture across borders. By widening our perspectives to include policy from across the UK we can learn about different approaches. For example, the recently introduced changes to homelessness legislation in Wales are being looked at closely by policy-makers in England.

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