Sitematch delegates join housing debate

by James Renoux-Wood Fri 28th February 2014, 11:16 am

Sitematch delegates have added to the debate on the government's house building policy, which is receiving considerable attention in the national press.

Speaking on the policy to build smaller homes, Andy Redfearn, 
director of housing and development 
at YMCA London South West, a company which is attending Sitematch London on 2 April, said: “When it comes to building new homes, there needs to be a rigorous masterplanning process. On the issue of downsizing, the size and the quality of those homes needs to be a very big priority.

“We have to look at the infrastructure that supports the people who need one or two bedroom properties, especially when moving into very dense housing blocks.”

Social housing chiefs previosuly expressed scepticism at the policy. Writing in The Guardian, Ian Munro, chief executive at social landlord, the New Charter Housing Trust, questioned the government's pledge to build smaller houses on a large scale. He suggested the policy is a hurried and ill thought through reaction to controversy over the bedroom tax.

The reduction of housing benefits for those deemed to have a “spare bedroom” is still contentious. A campaign group brought a case to the Court of Appeal last week, arguing that the policy was prejudicial towards disabled people in adapted or specially designed homes. The legality of the bedroom tax was upheld. 

This was followed by a bid from Labour to have the bedroom tax scrapped, which was defeated in a House of Commons vote by 304 to 253 on Wednesday (26 February).

While opposition to the cuts continues, the policy to build smaller houses now looks set to be rolled out across the country. Housing associations applying for funding are being told by the government to focus on delivering the types of accommodation that are in short supply in their local area.

The Department for Communities and Local Government said this will mean building more one and two bedroom homes in communities so that smaller households can move to  suitably sized accommodation. 

Housing minister, Kris Hopkins said: “Housebuilding is an essential part of this government’s long-term economic plan. That’s why we have designed an ambitious new scheme to build affordable homes at the fastest rate for 20 years.”

Munro welcomes anything to boost the number of houses built, but also states that “building one-bedroom accommodation on any sort of scale is barking mad” and argues that it will provide a “a short-lived” solution to cases of people affected by the bedroom tax.

He said: “Yes, there may be a case for smaller accommodation to be provided, especially with growing numbers of smaller and older households, but this should be done carefully and in a considered way by providers in response to genuine housing need – not in a headlong rush in response to the bedroom tax and in pursuit of a small bit of subsidy.”

A further consideration is the needs of an ageing population. Questions are being asked over the social ramifications of placing the elderly into lonely one-bedroom properties – particularly with regard to careful consideration over existing and anticipated health and social care needs being given thorough assessments.

Housing associations widely subscribe to the need to urge the government to “get building”, but in an unpredictable market in terms of supply and demand, there is also a consensus forming that policy and masterplanning building smaller properites en masse should be carefully thought through.

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