Summit 2023 event write-up

The Northern Housing Consortium’s (NHC) annual Northern Housing Summit took place at Aspire, Leeds on 9th November. This annual event brings Northern housing colleagues together from government, housing providers and more to discuss the key challenges facing the sector.


Housing in 2030 and politics today

The Summit was kicked off by NHC’s Chief Executive, Tracy Harrison, to introduce the key focus for the Summit – housing’s vision for 2030. Tracy asked the sector to think beyond the immediate future and to see the day as a blank page on which to layout what the housing sector wants to achieve by the end of the decade.

Just two days since a King’s Speech where housing played a minor role, the Summit’s host Mark Easton, spoke on the wider political context and the possibility of a new Labour government under Sir Keir Starmer coming to power in a 2024 general election. Starmer and his top team have consistently said that they will see housebuilding as a priority in government, with a commitment to build more than 1.5 million new homes within the first Labour parliament. Mark also noted the appropriate nature of Aspire, the venue for the day, which was originally built as the headquarters for the Yorkshire Pennybank – an institution dedicated to helping working people save for to buy a home. In the midst of a housing affordability crisis, an apt venue indeed.

The Summit was closed by guest speaker, political pundit and ex-advisor to Ed Miliband, Ayesha Hazarika. Ayesha stressed the importance of the housing sector in the current political context, saying that this appears to be the first general election in her career where housing plays a key role within all of the major issues, with pundits, politicians and voters making the inherent links between housing, local government pressures, immigration, public service levels, climate change and the cost-of-living crisis. Ayesha also made it clear that the sector should be stressing to Labour that to meet their ambitious housing targets, they will need the social sector to play a counter-cyclical role to compensate for plummeting private housebuilding.



Devolving power locally was a key focus of the day. NHC members were joined by Mayor of the Liverpool City Region, Steve Rotheram, to discuss the merits of devolution. The Mayor discussed how the Liverpool City Region was beginning to see the fruits of the establishment of a Mayoral Combined Authority for the area, and was beginning to chart its own course. Mayor Rotheram outlined the scale of the challenge on Merseyside as to decarbonising the area’s housing stock which totals more than 700,000 homes, with over £100m of investment required to retrofit the stock effectively. One major criticism of the current devolution agenda was that that it doesn’t yet go far enough, that while it is positive that more funding can be delivered more locally, funds often come with difficult strings attached and limitations on how spending can be administered, meaning that the Authority doesn’t really have autonomy over spending – “It is decentralization, not devolution” was a common sentiment in both the Mayor’s plenary, and the subsequent devolution panel session including Karbon Homes Chief Executive, Paul Fiddman; MSV Housing Chief Executive, Charlotte Norman; Newcastle City Council Chief Executive, Pam Smith; and the Chief Executive of Connect Housing, Helen Lennon. Everybody involved in devolution discussions agreed that a single departmental-style funding settlement, with autonomy over local spending, will be the golden prize for Mayoral Combined Authorities.


Housing today

The state of housing in the North today was the focus of discussion during an afternoon session teasing the upcoming 2023 Northern Housing Monitor. Arc4’s Graham Long spoke through some preliminary findings and highlighted four ‘strategic challenges’ for the North’s housing sector:

  • An undersupply of homes – around 44% too low in total
  • Systemic unaffordability for private tenants
  • Under-investment in existing homes, especially in the private rental sector
  • Homes unfit for the climate

An additional focus was placed on the affordability crisis for private tenants on low incomes. The freezing of Local Housing Allowance (LHA) rates at 2020 levels. This year’s Monitor will show that the impact of this decision three years down the line is that only 7% of homes in the North are now let at levels at or below the LHA.

The Northern Housing Monitor will be released in full, and made available to NHC members, in December 2023.



With less than six months until new consumer standards come into force in April 2024, the topic on the mind of every registered provider at the moment is the changing regulatory environment. A consultation on new, strengthened consumer standards closed in October.

Richard Blakeway from the Housing Ombudsman, Chief of Regulatory Engagement at the Regulator of Social Housing, Kate Dodsworth, and Indra Mudie – a Customer Board Member at Home Group – joined the Summit to discuss the emerging regulatory changes and some findings from the consultation.

All members of the panel stressed that landlords should have already started aligning with the new standards and the importance of strong data and the need for data systems to speak with one another. Landlord mergers and associated merging of data systems were highlighted by the Ombudsman as a possible pinch point leading to poor data outcomes and possible complaints.

Kate Dodsworth also noted that the consultation on draft consumer standards received over 1,000 responses and that, in general, responses from tenants were more positive about the new standards than landlords.


Pride in Place: views from Northern Communities

A new piece of research developed by the NHC and Thinks Insight & Strategy was also presented at the Summit, into how Northern communities perceive ‘Pride in Place’. This research involved speaking with residents across five different communities in the North to discuss what they thought of their local area, what issues there were and what they would like to see to improve where they live. The areas were:

  • Benwell, Newcastle upon Tyne
  • Blackpool, Lancashire
  • Knowsley, Merseyside
  • Moss Side, Greater Manchester
  • Skipton, North Yorkshire

The research identified significant existing pride in where people live, some consistent sources of dissatisfaction emerged as part of the work. These were:

  • Access to basic services
  • Sense of community decision-making
  • State of the local environment

A key solution throughout the work, amongst others such as rebuilding local capacity to enact change, was that devolving power closer to communities so that those with the most investment in their area feel empowered to deliver change would be of great benefit. Residents involved in the work also greatly valued green spaces that are well managed and accessible, as well as communities having a space to host events and activities.

The full report can be accessed here.