19 July 2018

The day after the referendum on the European Union, a friend of mine explained to me why he’d voted leave. He said he didn’t know what the future held outside the EU, but it had to be better than the way things were. In the days and months that followed, the voices of other people who felt trapped, abandoned or without hope of a better future choosing change – any change – became louder. For those that work in housing, perhaps this was not a surprise.

But it’s not just about how Brexit affects us housing associations, it’s about how we, as a sector, stand up and address the challenges facing the communities where we work. That’s what we’re here for, after all. And that’s why Sovereign’s new five-year strategy, as well aiming to build far more, continues to prioritise the affordability of much-needed new homes. It also restates our long-standing commitment to protecting our social rented homes, while focusing our efforts on maximising the positive impact of our work. It emphasises the need to work with old friends and new partners in different ways – such as house builders, local authorities, health providers and even schools and academies – to help create the best places to live that we can. The impact of our work has the potential to be truly life-changing.

That’s why I was so proud to be part of the steering group for this Housing Summit, with the opportunity to talk about our shared purpose with some seriously impressive housing leaders. And as we began to discuss the possible themes for the Summit, what was clear was that they wanted to challenge every one of us in the sector, making us ask ourselves the big questions and come up with different answers to the way it’s always been. How can we learn from disruptors? What are the five ideas that’ll change the world? How can we break the system to build the homes we need? How can we really end homelessness?

Last week, Crisis published a challenging, non-partisan and long-term blueprint to end homelessness. It was called Everyone In and I’m particularly looking forward to hearing the charity speak at the Summit. At the heart of the report was the need for around 100,000 new social homes to be built each year. To achieve that, we’ll need a fundamental shift in government policy, in investment, in how we all value and use land, in how we build – and in how we work together.

We won’t have all the answers when the Summit draws to a close, but we’ll have started asking ourselves those big questions. Our communities, our current and our future residents, are all depending on us.

Tim Abbott

Tim Abbott is a member of the Steering Group for the National Housing Summit and Head of Corporate Affairs, Sovereign

Asking ourselves those big questions