Last week I spoke at an event marking the launch of Shelter’s new Housing Insights for Communities online resource. The aim is to “support local authority officers and house builders in achieving positive community engagement in housing development”.
In her introduction, Kay Boycott from Shelter, said: “We are in the midst of a massive housing crisis where the only solution is to build more homes. While 72% of people agree that we need more homes in this country, 48% would oppose plans to build on their street. Increasing understanding of people’s concerns regarding development in their area is a vital step on the long road to providing decent, affordable housing for everyone.
The need to better understand people concerns – not just in housing, but across local government – is going to be vitally important over the coming few years. Obviously, with it’s capabilities for communication the internet can be a hugely useful and positive force in this.
This resource then should provide some interesting insights into different communities across the country. You are able to analyse details on demographic groups – ward-by-ward, and get a snapshot of the likely views on housing. Shelter are very clear in their aims, which are to encourage more house building to meet current and future housing needs. The information on the insights tool shows the likelihood of objection to house building, and gives guidance on the most effective communication channels and messages to reach specific groups.
It is a an impressive use of data to drive policy and campaigning, and Shelter deserve credit for recognising that in the new more localist world, after the abolition of housing targets and the drive towards community planning, they need a new approach. Instead of looking to Whitehall to influence funding and targets for housing, they will need to focus on councils and communities. This can only be a good thing for generating a new kind of debate amongst people about the best approach to housing. At present while most people agree that we need more housing, most people also say they don’t want it in their area. The old ‘top down’ housing targets entrenched this contradiction, rather than resolving it. P
erhaps when local people are much more engaged in thinking about housing need in their area, and feel more in the driving seat, there might be local progress.