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Housing Forum review points the way forward


The Housing Forum is launching a review that sets out the criteria necessary to meet Government targets.

It could make uncomfortable reading, writes John Callcutt

AT ITS forthcoming conference the Housing Forum will be launching a research project called Delivering a Customer Driven Strategy.

This examination of the sector will be more comprehensive than any previous review, with its emphasis on the industry organising itself for delivery.

While not commissioning the review, several Government ministries have encou raged and supported it, despite knowing that parts will make uncomfortable reading.

The project is at the scoping stage and will cover many aspects of housing such as the product, land supply, production and producers and communities.

It will seek to find out how the house building industry can deliver a product that purchasers want, in the volumes needed and to the social, environmental and quality standards that are required. This is essential if we are to meet the Government's standards as set out in A Decent Home for All and the Sustainable Communities Plan.

The review has adopted a number of provisional categories. These are: incentivisation of stakeholders;

integration of policies and processes; simplification and standardisation of systems and requirements;

empowerment of local democracy and the role of Government in achieving social change.

Incentivisation of stakeholders is the proposition that house builders, councils, residents and many other affected parties will react more positively to change if they believe that it will be in their interests or at least be implemented in a way that minimises adverse impact.

An example of this approach is that house builders would act more decisively to meet the Government's housing agenda if they could see their shareholder value being improved by so doing. The challenge to Government would then be to see how its policies might be achieved through co-operation with house builders, their shareholders and financiers.

Producers would react positively if they could see that by meeting environmental performance objectives, the environmental profile of their products may be improved and their markets expanded.

It would be naive to pretend that everyone will be a winner but with the judicious use of transitional arrangements there would be opportunities to improve or reposition.

The second area of approach is integrat ion. By this we mean the harmonisation of inter-departmental objectives and policies at Governmental level and the creat ion of sector wide bodies that can begin to harmonise and integrate social, economic and environmental policies within the industry itself.

The Housing Forum intends to look at how social, management and democratic factors can all be brought into the equation, be assessed, given due weight and integrated into the development of people-friendly communities.

On simplification and rationalisation, the Forum will be examining the bewildering complexity of regulation and administration. It will look at whether the proliferation of organisations ? including the Housing Forum ? that measure, deliver or simply comment on sustainable regeneration and house building is retarding rather than advancing the cause.

Under the heading of rationalisation the Forum will be looking at ways to simplify the process by tackling such issues as br inging previously compar tmentalised bodies together, producing uniform standards and codes for the delivery of sustainable development.

Under the heading of empowerment the role and extent of local democracy will be examined, as will how the voice of ordinary people in comm it tee might be heard and how local democratic and administrative structures might be made more accessible to vulnerable members of society.

Finally, we will look at the role of the state ? how, in a free market economy, can Government best achieve its objectives with minimum recourse to public cost or subsidy. There will be a time when, in spite of increased taxation or tariffs, and the recruitment of more public sector workers, it will be unable to finance or manage the scale of its regeneration ambition.

Sources of financing and funding will have to be found. The professional expertise within the UK needs to be harnessed. So, whether you are a house builder, contractor, social landlord, producer of building products, professional, or one of the many other stakeholders in this sector, the Housing Forum will be producing a report that will directly affect you.

If you want to learn more, then head to the Housing Forum conference on May 10.

John Callcutt is deputy chairman of Crest Nicholson and on the board of the Housing Forum