APPG Hosts Minister for First Session of 23/24

Monday 13th March saw the All Party Parliamentary Group for Housing in the North reconvene for 2023 / 2024. The Group, which brings together Parliamentarians from all parties and both Houses together to discuss and advance northern housing policy, successfully held its AGM and opened the new year hosting a Ministerial dialogue with Lord Callanan, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Minister for Energy Efficiency and Green Finance).

Chair Ian Mearns MP, Member of Parliament for Gateshead and Chair of the influential Backbench Business Committee, confirmed to the Group of his intention to continue as Chair alongside all other returning officers. It was noted that Kevin Hollinrake MP and Richard Holden MP were to reluctantly withdraw formal involvement in the APPG following their appointments as Parliamentary Under Secretary of States in the Department for Business and Department for Transport respectively.

The APPG meeting was held under the theme of “Delivering Housing Quality in the North”. Chair Ian Mearns MP opened the meeting noting the pollical consensus behind the drive to ensure every single person lives in a home that is decent, safe and secure. Not just a moral right, the Government’s Levelling Up agenda is right to assert that housing sits at the heart of physical and mental wellbeing, contributes greatly to the sense of belonging to a community, and offers a strong foundation from which to participate in the local economy.

Despite these imperatives however, Ian put forward that housing decency remained a persistent challenge citing analysis from the Northern Housing Consortium’s annual Housing Monitor that non-decency in the North of England sat at 17.6%, above the national average of 15%. With that figure in mind, and with progress on a new Decent Homes Standard slowing, it was vital that the APPG bring stakeholders together consider delivering housing quality across all tenures.

Lord Callanan was attending the APPG for the second time, having also spoke to the Group in October 2021. He used his opening remarks to underline the important connection between improving housing quality and energy efficiency. He discussed Government support to date, from households to date and outlining on further programmes to come covering Homes Upgrade Grants / Boiler Upgrades, the Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund, Energy Company Obligation, skills and training in the supply chain. In a wide ranging Q&A attendees, including many senior leaders from the NHC membership, Lord Callanan discussed a variety of barriers to upscaling retrofit, including hard to treat properties, challenges in skills and the supply chain, and the specific issues found in the Private Rented Sector.

Following Lord Callanan, a series of stakeholders had been invited to share their thoughts on how to effectively deliver housing quality in the North. Firstly Charlie Norman, Chief Executive, MSV and Vice-Chair of the Northern Housing Consortium discussed the work and recommendations of the Better Social Housing Review. She highlighted both the technical challenge of repairing homes but also the underlying equality issues. It was important for the sector to lean into some uncomfortable truths. Following Charlie, Michael Marshall from the University of Sheffield shared insights from the report Lessons from Last Time: A Review of Evidence on the First Decent Homes Programme in the Social and Private Rented Sectors. Michael advocated for a holistic approach to decency, moving beyond the front door to make homes and neighbourhoods climate-conscious and pleasant places to live. Finally, Steve Coffey, Group CEO of Torus, built on Michael’s remarks by sharing his experiences of the first Decent Homes Programme. He welcomed that the discussion on creating decent homes and neighbourhoods had become a non-party political point but this could go further. Homes are the foundations of people’s lives, and investment whether in decency or energy efficiency should be organised in tandem to bring economic uplift through skills, training, and well paid green jobs.

For more information on the APPG for Housing in the North and to access the post-meeting pack for this and other meetings of the group, please visit the APPG’s dedicated webpage: