The King’s Speech was an opportunity for the government to show ambition and affirm housing’s role in a prosperous society. It came up short, writes Geeta Nanda.

Last week’s King’s Speech spoke volumes about the current government’s direction of travel on housing as well as housing’s place in our political discourse.

While there were some welcome moves to improve the leasehold system and improve conditions for private renters, there was not one single mention of the housing crisis nor steps the government intends to take to tackle it.

Geeta Nanda OBE small 2

Geeta Nanda, chief executive, Metropolitan Thames Valley

When I attended the Conservative Party Conference in early-October, the agenda was packed with fringe events about housing with many of these events standing room only. As a multitude of views, and potential solutions flew around the rooms, there was a consensus that the housing crisis is one of the greatest challenges of our times and bold action is required if we are to overcome it. 

The government’s legislative ambition continues to fall desperately short

Yet, the King’s Speech passed off with no new measures to address this crisis. As a secure, safe, and affordable place to call home remains the ultimate aspiration of millions of people across the UK, the government’s legislative ambition continues to fall desperately short.

This is deeply disappointing, not least for those who the notion of a safe, secure, and affordable home remains a distant dream, and represents a missed opportunity for the nation.

At the Conservative Party Conference, I spoke on a panel hosted by the Bright Blue think tank which explored how housing can help to boost the UK’s prosperity. To us, a prosperous society is one where people have the chance to live well. We want a society in which people are healthy, educated well and enabled to contribute to the economy and to their local communities.

We believe there is one place where all this begins – at home!

A safe, secure, and affordable home can give people the means to build and live in a prosperous society through enabling them to put down roots in their local communities and economies. Giving people stability in employment, education, and family life.

MTVH’s research with Sonnet Advisory & Impact CIC demonstrates clear evidence of how affordable housing is contributing to the UK’s prosperity despite the current housing crisis. In total, for every £1 invested in MTVH the return for society is £1.53 – boosting the economy, saving health and care services money, and helping to support children’s education.

Another measure of a prosperous society is a chance to live well in later life

On a recent visit to the Roundshaw estate in Sutton, south London, where MTVH maintains a large volume of stock, I saw first-hand how safe, secure, and affordable housing is helping to build a more prosperous society and contributing to the growth of our communities.

From the aspiring businesswoman who, with MTVH support, bought a burger van and will soon open a café on the estate, to the community centre which puts on some amazing events, Roundshaw has become a proud and vibrant community since being regenerated in the early-2000s. And, through working closely with partners, MTVH and the local community is working to tackle hardship where it arises, such as food insecurity.

Another measure of a prosperous society is a chance to live well in later life and this is something I will be taking forward as a member of the government’s Older People’s Housing Taskforce. I recently visited MTVH’s Lotus Close, Lambeth, an older people’s housing scheme for members of the Chinese and Vietnamese community. On this visit, I also welcomed the Chair of the government’s Older People’s Housing Taskforce, Julienne Mayer to the estate.

With beautifully kept gardens and a range of events, Lotus Close is a vibrant older people’s community within Lambeth, catering to the choices more and more people will consider as our society ages on their best options in later life. 

“Economic conditions are continuing to strain the resources of housing associations, and government must work with us if we are to boost affordable housing supply”

Demand for older people’s housing is already outstripping supply and is only likely to grow. Through meeting this demand, we can help older people who choose to do so to find more suitable properties which better meet their needs and free up larger, family sized homes for younger people – a win/win situation.

There’s no doubt that affordable housing options are making a difference, yet the current undersupply is holding back millions of people and our society as a whole. This undersupply cannot be understood without reference to underinvestment with capital spending on housing down 63% since 2010. Economic conditions are continuing to strain the resources of housing associations, and government must work with us if we are to boost affordable housing supply and help millions of people to realise their aspirations.

As the next general election approaches, housing promises to be a key issue. Our major parties must demonstrate their commitment to tackling the housing crisis. This is the ambition of the British people which our politicians must match. They must do better than they did in the King’s Speech.