Telegraph Column: Putting housing on the agenda in Sheffield

Tony Stacey
Tony Stacey

I am a baby boomer. My generation has lucked out in so many ways – particularly with regards to housing. I bought my first house (in York) for £2,000 when I was a 21-year-old student. My dad subbed me the money, and I paid him back out of my student grant - unthinkable today, writes Tony Stacey, chief executive of South Yorkshire Housing Association.

My generation has been brought up in an era of relatively affordable housing, and we are used to an upward trajectory in house prices. Many of us sit on a good deal of housing equity, while feeling uncomfortable at the same time watching our children and grandchildren struggle to own homes half the size we did at their age.

Two-thirds of young people now believe they will never own their own home although, for most of them, this remains the tenure of choice.

Britain is in the middle of a housing crisis caused by our failure to build the new homes we need. Last year we completed fewer homes than at any time since 1923. The Housing Minister for the incoming government, Grant Shapps, promised he would turn Britain into ‘a nation of house builders’. He hasn’t.

The Sheffield City Region’s Local Enterprise Partnership has adopted a growth plan which says that the number of new homes we need to build needs to treble if economic growth is not to be stymied. This is one heck of a challenge, given that the numbers of new homes we have been building locally has dropped steadily over the last 10 years.

This is the background to Homes for Britain, a national campaign supported by 80 organisations as varied as Shelter, Crisis, Genrent, The National Housing Federation and the Association of Residential Landlords. Homes for Britain has one simple ask of politicians – solve the housing crisis within one generation.

People talk about housing all the time. Yet this is strangely muted in political campaigns.

So why this disconnect? This is a recent phenomenon. As a country, we seem to have sleepwalked into the false notion that politicians cannot solve the housing crisis. They can. This requires courage, investment, vision and a willingness to come up with a long term strategy.

To raise the profile of housing in the run-up to the election we have set up the Sheffield Housing Festival. It will take place on Saturday in Endcliffe Park from 11am to 3pm. The centrepiece will be an inflatable house. There will be street theatre, stalls, a Speakers Corner, food and drink and plenty for kids to do.

And in the meantime, if anyone knocks on the door asking for your vote, ask them how they intend to solve the housing crisis. We should expect an answer.