NHC Hosts Gavin Barwell White Paper Q&A

The Housing and Planning Minister, Gavin Barwell, visited Gateshead on Thursday, February 23rd as part of a Housing White Paper Q&A Roadshow. The NHC hosted the Gateshead stop of the nine-location tour where Mr Barwell met with NHC members, developers, councillors and other experts to discuss efforts to ‘fix the broken housing market’.

Speaking to a packed audience  at The Sage, the Minister highlighted the four key aspects of the White Paper and specifically referenced the importance of the work of the NHC Commission for Housing in the North, speaking repeatedly about the challenge of setting national policy for diverse regional housing markets and the importance of a place-based approach.

Representatives from a broad range of organisations then questioned Mr Barwell on issues from the continuing challenge of regeneration, to streamlining planning, to rent certainty after 2020.

The issue of land banking came up in several questions and the Minister reiterated the White Paper’s commitment to not only publish registers of who owned land but also of what options were held on land.

One of the major recurring topics was the proposed Local Housing Allowance (LHA) cap and its impact on supported housing and high rise properties in particular. Attendees expressed concern that the LHA cap was too blunt an instrument to use when rates vary so hugely across the country. The Minister acknowledged that the very term ‘supported housing’ actually covers a broad range of housing offers and  indicated that supported housing providers potentially “hold the whip hand” on the issue as the Minister wants them to build and will thus be open to their suggestions for change.

One delegate brought up the question of how the industrial strategy links with the White Paper, adding that there are increasing numbers of businesses wishing to relocate to their local area that saw the available housing offer as an obstacle. Mr Barwell was keen to encourage creativity in bids from local authorities noting that the Government has vast powers to alter or suspend planning obligations which could boost housing supply.

The Minster also answered questions on housing density and the Nationally Described Space Standard, particularly concerns from some in the room that it would see a return to cramped homes. The Minister responded that the reason the Government were looking at the National Described Space Standard was to boost home ownership among those – especially in London or other large urban areas – who do not require a great deal of space. He reiterated that there would be ‘no race to the bottom’ on space standards and noted the work undertaken by Pocket Living in London around smaller, more affordable apartments for first time buyers.

Commenting on the roadshow, Mr Barwell said “We’ve set out lasting reforms that will get more of the right homes built in the right places.  But the challenge of increasing supply cannot be met by government alone. That’s why I’m visiting different parts of the country, listening to views from experts across the housing industry and discussing how we can work together to fix our broken housing market.”

Northern Housing Summit

The Summit arrives in Manchester at the start of 2016 – a challenging, tumultuous, some would say opportunistic time for Housing in the North.  Set against the developing backdrop of the Northern Powerhouse, the Summit will provide an opportunity for delegates to reflect on the fundamental questions facing the North and the housing sector.

Northern Powerhouse

Speakers to include:

  • James Wharton MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (Northern Powerhouse)  (invited)
  • Jonn Elledge, New Statesman


Growth and delivery

In these sessions we’ll be looking at how to unlock investment and delivery into our Northern cities and places, the role housing plays in supporting a vibrant powerhouse, and exploring the progress of Manchester Place, the housing delivery agency for Manchester. Our speakers will also be looking at what the future holds for social housing, and the Housing Finance Institute’s plans for delivery. Delegates will be updated on progress from the Commission for Housing in the North, which seeks to promote growing, vibrant and high quality housing markets across the North. We’ll also explore the role of housing in supporting customers into work.

Speakers on this theme include:

  • James Wharton, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (Northern Powerhouse) – invited
  • Naz Parker, HCA
  • Deborah McLaughlin, Manchester Place
  • Paul Marsh, UKTI
  • Naz Parker, HCA
  • Natalie Elphicke, Housing Finance Institute
  • Housing the Powerhouse, speaker tbc.


Wider public sector reform

Our public sector reform theme will explore what the sector can do differently to increase efficiency, and how the future looks for social housing. Is local government set to capitalise on the opportunities of devolution and decentralisation? We’ll also discuss how housing and health services can work together in joint ventures.

Speakers on this theme include:

  • Mark Lloyd, LGA (invited)
  • Cath Green, First Choice Homes Oldham
  • Jane Forrester, Greater Manchester Combined Authority
  • Peter Molyneux, Chair, South West London and St George’s NHS Trust
  • Neil Reveley, Executive Director, People Services, Sunderland City Council
  • Louise Giles, Director of Development and Learning, Lancashire Care NHS Trust
  • David Kirkby, Bright Blue
  • Barbara Spicer, Plus Dane (invited)

The Summit also seeks to challenge all of us across the North and asks three fundamental questions: are we as effective as we can be – do we really meet our aspirations or do we hide behind excuses and don’t change until we’re pushed? Are we supporting dependency rather than unleashing aspiration? And finally, does the North need a disruptive influence? And if so, are we ready for it?

For more information and to book, please visit our Events page.


Forthcoming NHC Events

The landscape for the sector has changed considerably over recent months, and with that, our events programme has been flexible and fast-paced. NHC is committed to a responsive and up to date events programme, offering excellent value for our members. You can view all events that are open for bookings here.

In early 2016, we’ll be holding the following conferences and seminars:

Business Resilience – January 2016 (Bookings Opening Soon)

This event is for HR professionals and leaders of organisational development. Looking at performance, morale, redundancy and organisational shocks, and with speakers from both the housing sector and beyond, this conference will ensure the sector is prepared for what is to come.

Delivering Social Value in Harder Times – 21st January 2016 (Now Open for Bookings)

The July Budget blew existing business plans out of the water, with rent reductions, welfare reform, Right to Buy, the sale of high value properties, pay to stay, devolution, and broader public sector cuts bearing down on the sector. With an emphasis on budget cuts, value for money and efficiency, where does this leave social value? Why is social value still important?

If social value is to be meaningful for value driven organisations, we need to start thinking about the total value we deliver, across the whole business – in procurement, development, housing management, regeneration, as well as in traditional areas such as community investment. The Social Value (Public Services) Act 2012 still bites and we need better and more evidence driven ways of driving and demonstrating the value in all that we do.

Income Maximisation for Housing Organisations – 2nd February 2016 (Booking Opening Soon)

Led by solicitors from Ward Hadaway, his half day seminar explores ways those working in income management can ensure they achieve the maximum rent return, whilst ensuring that customers have access to the full income they’re entitled to. With sessions for general income management, and leasehold management, this is a key event our members can’t afford to miss.

Northern Housing Summit – 22nd February 2016 (Now Open for Booking)

This year’s Northern Housing Summit is set against backdrop of considerable policy change. The political direction of travel on both devolution and housing fronts is taking shape and the Summit, with its new February date, provides an opportunity to reflect on what these changes mean to housing in the North and consider the role that housing can play in the Northern Powerhouse and how we are housing an aspiration generation. The Summit programme explores key themes such as housing supply and routes to owner occupation, economic growth and public sector reform, connecting health and housing, welfare and work incentives and will also provide an update on the Commission for Housing in the North.

Asset Management – March 2016 (Booking Opening Soon)

At this event, aimed at senior leaders, Heads of Finance, Asset Management and Governance, we will look at value for money, stock rationalisation, and regeneration.

Housing and Health – March 2016 (Booking Opening Soon)

The housing and health conference, delivered in partnership with HACT, will explore the health challenges faced in our communities, the changing operational environment for the NHS, local integration of health, housing and social care and the opportunities for housing to engage in the new models of care. With a line up of senior leaders in the NHS, Public Health, Social Care and Housing, this event will be key for those looking to extend develop and strengthen local partnerships with health.

Keep an eye on our events pages for more information. If you’d like to sign up to our weekly events update, please email lucy.thompson@northern-consortium.org.uk and we’ll add you to our mailing list.