Tuesday 15th December 2020
By Mary Parsons, Regeneration and Partnerships Director, Lovell
This time last year, in the usual chaotic run up to Christmas and the year end, we could not have imagined for one second what was to come. As someone said to me recently, “now we know why hindsight is known as 2020”. The challenges our businesses and customers have faced have been, and still are, immense – but as we applaud the amazing work of the NHS and care sectors, we should also acknowledge how the social housing sector also rose brilliantly to the challenge to support our residents and communities through this hardest of times.
So many examples of amazing initiatives from the front line – from helping rough sleepers off the street, continuing to protect the elderly and most vulnerable through to coordinating food and medical deliveries and supporting Foodbanks – even deploying staff to just call the thousands of customers to just check they were OK. The social housing sector has done so much to help and support those in the greatest need during the pandemic. Through all of this, we have also kept building and working in partnership across all sectors to deliver not just more homes, but high-quality ones.
The pandemic has made all of us deeply understand the value of our homes and our neighbourhoods. As we have all spent weeks at a time literally staring at our four walls, we know the impact they can have on our mental as well as our physical health and well-being. Daylight, good noise insulation, being warm in winter but not over-heating during hot spells, feeling safe and secure are all massive factors.
Our home has always been so much more than a roof over our heads. It’s where we put down roots, feel a sense of belonging, feel safe. A statement of who we are and our place in the world. Our home isn’t just where we live, it’s how we live. It’s where our children played and we watched them grow. Where we can feel safe when we are old. Or it should be – irrespective of whether you rent or own your home. WISH members have always understood that.
Yet the places we live in are now not only where we come home to, they became, virtually overnight, where we may need to work, where we try and educate our children, where they play, where we exercise. The homes we create now need to be able to work on so many levels and to be flexible to cope with these often-competing demands. Even as we hopefully look beyond the pandemic to a ‘new normal’, many of those may still form part of our lives. Many of us can only imagine what lockdown has been like for families crowded in temporary accommodation trying to home-school; of renting sharers working all day in their bedroom or for those without access to green space or even a balcony to sit outside.
As we look ahead into 2021, I am sure we are all considering how the proposed planning reform outlined in the White Paper may impact on delivery and location of new homes – particularly affordable. We have had the publication of the ‘Charter for Social Housing Residents’ and the continued hard lessons from the Grenfell Enquiry to absorb. Of course, as we emerge from the COVID-crisis, another even greater one in terms of the Climate emergency remains. The Government is outlining further details on its investment into the Green economy and a zero-carbon future. The challenge for our sector is perhaps less on how we achieve it on new housing, although there is still much work to do there, but how we can work together, in partnership, to tackle the huge challenge of retrofitting existing homes. Collaboration across all sectors and supply chains, as well as Government support and investment, will be essential.
A busy – and perhaps still uncertain – 2021 lies ahead for all of us and WISH members will, I am sure, be at the heart of all these debates. At Lovell we are working hard to understand how we can best support our partners in meeting these challenges and keep delivering the homes we need across the country.