Future thinking – Rod Cahill, Chief Executive

This article was originally published in Inside Housing

In the run-up to the 2010 general election, we had a housing crisis. The economy was in freefall and politicians didn’t see housing as a vote-winning issue that they should get excited about. The housing sector had a well-thought-out but fragmented set of policy asks. And when we talked, no one in power listened or cared.

We all know what happened next.

Nearly five years on, things have only become worse. Prices have risen so high that in many parts of the country (especially in the south east where Catalyst operates), even people on high incomes can barely afford to rent, let alone buy a modest share in a home. The supply of social housing is way too low and the 2015-18 affordable homes programme is so complex and onerous, that some providers haven’t bothered to bid at all.

Almost everyone agrees that we need to build 250,000 homes a year. We can’t rely on private house builders to up the pace – Savills predicts they are unlikely to build more than 130,000 homes a year.

Local authorities could build more, but most don’t have the funds, capacity or skills to do so in volume.

Housing associations are vital to increasing the supply of genuinely affordable housing. For our part, Catalyst will develop 1,000 new homes a year, and the G15 group of London housing associations – of which we are one – will collectively build around 16,000 homes a year.

Add to that the plans of more than a thousand other associations across the country and you have a sizeable contribution.

But we can all do more and we need the next government to do a lot more too. Catalyst attended the Labour Party conference this week, and will be at the Liberal Democrat and Conservative conferences as well, requesting the following:

  • Cross-party political leadership that challenges the anti-development feeling and promotes the social and economic benefits of additional housing
  • Greater public investment in housing supply and in affordable housing
  • A proper long-term strategy rather than a series of initiatives
  • A clear policy on who affordable housing is for, where it is to be built, and how it should be priced
  • New levers and incentives to unlock privately owned land.

The National Housing Federation’s ‘Homes for Britain’ campaign, with a broad coalition of housing bodies, aims to get whichever party wins the 2015 general election to pledge to end the housing crisis in a generation. Catalyst is fully behind this and I hope you are too.