Economists explore the future of the housing market at North West Housing Conference 2014


North West businesses heard the expert views of two leading economists at the annual North West Housing Conference.

Well-known housing academic and economist Professor Duncan Maclennan gave his views on the increasing need to cater for an ageing demographic when he addressed the region’s social housing community at the event.

Professor Maclennan, who holds Chairs at the Universities of Glasgow and St Andrews, warned that there is an inadequate understanding of the problem, the opportunity, and the required policy actions. He explained how more longevity means more complex ‘careers’ involving more household care and subtler changes in the labour market, with rising working ages.

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Sharing his thoughts with over 180 delegates who had gathered at Liverpool’s BT Convention Centre, Professor Maclennan said social housing providers have a real opportunity to put strategies in place which protect the future of the social housing environment. He spoke of the need for associations to be flexible providers and offer their customers property factoring and repair, neighbourhood facilities and services and positive volunteering strategies. Housing associations could look to manage a gradual owning to rental switch with equity sharing which allows switches from larger to smaller properties in same area and a mix of social and ‘private tenants’. He suggested more radical changes could include fully wired homes for teleheathcare facilities and the provision of integrated ‘late career wellbeing’ services.

Attendees also heard from leading economist Ashwin Kumar, Director of Liverpool Economics, who examined the economic realities facing the sector. He spoke about how the housing divide between London and the rest of the UK was a consequence of the economic divide. He showed how that divide has been growing, not narrowing in recent years, and how investment skewed towards London suggests this will continue.

He went on to say that inequality is also a problem within the region, with specific areas where demand for housing has plummeted. In many areas, it is not economic to build ordinary homes for the private market. He explained that the fundamental problem in areas of low demand is that wages are not high enough and the only sustainable way to fix the housing market in these areas is to increase the earning potential of the people who live there, principally by developing skills but also confidence and knowledge about how to navigate the labour market.

The conference included a panel session called "Taking the Roof off Housing" which was made up of Bill Davies, Research Fellow, Institute for Public Policy Research, Dr Michael Birkett, Group Chief Executive, The Regenda Group, Sasha Deepwell, Deputy Chief Executive, Wulvern Housing and Julie Fadden, Chief Executive, South Liverpool Homes. Delegates heard the panel’s perspective on the future of social housing which included investment in sustainable services and communities, harnessing the power of technology and a new era of co-operative and community owned housing which could see a self-build revolution.

Social housing specialists also presented a series of workshops, offering practical advice on a range of topics specific to the sector including governance, housing management, risk and regulation.

The event was chaired by Simon Nunn, Assistant Director, External Affairs and Member Relations, National Housing Federation.

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North West Housing Conference 2014 (L to R): Ian Alderson - Brabners, Duncan MacLennan - Housing Academic and Economist, Simon Nunn - National Housing Federation, Ashwin Kumar - Director of Liverpool Economics, Paul Wainwright – Mitchell Charlesworth

Brabners and Mitchell Charlesworth hosted the conference with support from partners - Liverpool Mutual Homes, Plus Dane Group, The Riverside Group, Symphony Housing Group, The Regenda Group and Your Housing Group – and sponsors CDP Print Management and Procure Plus.

Ian Alderson, Partner at Brabners, which has one of the largest housing and regeneration specialist legal teams in the North West, said: “We were delighted to have such eminent and interesting speakers at the conference, which was attended by a broad cross-section of housing professionals from the North West and beyond”.

Social housing specialist and Partner at Mitchell Charlesworth, Paul Wainwright said: “We are pleased to organise this conference with Brabners, which has become the leading housing sector event in the North West. All the speakers and sponsors want to do one thing – support, advise and educate the sector for the good of our local area”.

Twitter: @NWHousingConf

 

 

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