Who should we be telling about #HomesforBritain?

Betsy the bus

If you are involved in Social Housing in any way, you will likely have noticed their is a bit of a buzz around at the moment. The Homes For Britain campaign has stoked the fires under many of those organisations involved in Housing and got them shouting about the main issue facing the industry today which is the lack of “affordable” housing.

The crisis we are facing-and it absolutely is a crisis, which is further compounded by the Right To Buy initiative that the Tories seem so fond of- is very real and will have a massive impact on future generations unless we take action NOW!

But my question is this- are we preaching to the right people?

I don’t mean to downplay all of the fantastic efforts from everyone across the country who have been running, cycling, walking and bussing along various routes to the rally in Westminster, promoting the message as they go. Or the creative advertising in the tube station at Westminster- it gets people asking questions and is a talking point, but is it targetted at the wrong people?

floor space

@ChurchieChat touched on it in his Wednesday Winge, and I’m inclined to agree with him- “Not being unkind but there doesn’t seem to be much public reaction – the pics I’ve seen so far could be from the Empty Spaces Agency.”  Has it really grabbed the interest of the nation, or just had handful of people who happen to be in the area at the time Betsy rolls into town?

I have said it before in previous blogs, that the Social Housing industry is very insular looking and very good at promoting its work internally. Benchmarking against each other rather than other industries/companies (see Paul Taylors interesting blog on this here) is a case in point. The majority of housing promotion is through twitter and is being followed by those people that are already involved etc, or through the industry press which has the same following.  Where were the residents, the local communities supporting the organisations that are doing this on their behalf?

Don’t get me wrong, its a good starting point, but I think its like having a fight with yourself in a dark room and then coming out and not explaining where you got the bruises.

The way I see it is that rather than lobbying the politicians, we need to be lobbying the general public and in particular young people. Housing has fallen down the political pecking order, because the people that need Social Housing don’t vote. The only way that politicians will start to take this seriously is if it will benefit them-i.e get them more votes. According to a BBC Newsbeat survey 23% of young people consider the lack of affordable housing a serious issue for them, compared to 11% of the “general public”.  That’s because it will and is affecting them and their lives!

The fly in the ointment is that only 47% of the young people intend to vote, so there is no real benefit to politicians to focus on it.  If we can empower and engage them, perhaps we can change this.  And if Housing becomes a real vote winner, you can guarantee it will get a seat at the top table again and finances will be funnelled into it.

The campaign message is sound, and the delivery of that message is also effective, but I think we need to turn around and face the people that actually can make a difference…the local community and not just those people in Social Housing or the political arena.

You look at how much money is raised today for Comic Relief and tell me that people in this country won’t act on issues that affect their local communities!

Engage with them, sell the message and watch them walk/run/bus WITH you next time!

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I manage a small Housing recruitment business (www.greenacre-recruitment) covering the Midlands and South West Regions. Outside of that, I'm a dad of 2, a keen rugby supporter (knees don't allow me to play anymore) and cyclist (the knees let me do that!)

4 thoughts on “Who should we be telling about #HomesforBritain?”

  1. Great post and thanks for the mention.

    I think #HomesforBritain is a major step forward for the sector (you can tell there’s a but coming..) but you are right to question whether it’s having wider reverberations. I don’t think that’s a fault with the campaign at all which is excellent. It would be churlish to criticise when people are working really hard and doing such amazing things.

    So what is it?

    Your mention of Comic Relief is helpful. A few years ago we questioned why people working for us would get so enthused about raising money for Comic Relief but were (seemingly) less motivated to fundraise for a cause more directly aligned with social housing. Remember these are people who work in social housing so you’d assume they’d be more pro-housing that the general public.

    Our conclusion was the message was all wrong -and it was one of reasons we began talking about the Bromford Deal – aspiration and unlocking potential rather than just housing people. The message around Comic Relief is about making the world a better place through having fun. It’s dark sometimes but we can have a laugh whilst making a difference. It’s simple and people buy into it.

    Your last line is very close to the mark. Maybe we are still targeting the wrong people rather than focussing on engaging the 50% of young people who don’t vote – a figure that will be even higher I reckon in social housing.

    I’m right behind #homesforbritain but post election we need a focus on building and maintaining relationships – not campaigns and hashtag activism.

    Sorry for long reply – should have turned into a blog!


  2. Thanks Paul- I’m thankful for any reply, long or short! I totally agree with you- the campaign has really gathered momentum and got the message out there but in reality it is a splash in the ocean. Politicians get lobbied constantly about a multitude of causes, which mainly becomes “white noise” to them. They will ask themselves- “will this get us more votes and win us an election?” If the answer is no, then it is ignored. Housing has the capacity to be a vote winner, but people need to have their voice to ensure it is seen as such.
    I am a firm believer that in order for politicians to listen to a cause, it is the industries job to empower/galvanise the public to shout, rather than just shout themselves- their voices will be much louder and thus have more likelihood of being heard.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi I really agree with your point about lobbying the general public and in particular the young about housing and the need for more homes. I was at the rally too and have posted a blog about it and I felt the same – that we were talking to each other, the converted. Although it was amazing to achieve the numbers of people that gathered, we needed to make more noise to be noticed. We should have waved flags and chanted songs around Westminster itself rather than be in a closed space. A great beginning but for housing to receive the attention it deserves it has to matter to large numbers of the general public. Laura


    1. Hi Laura

      Thanks for the comment and I’m glad you agree. I think many Housing professionals feel the same way, but its about breaking ingrained practices as this has been the case for so long. I’ve always said that Housing is a fantastic career, but no-one really knows about it unless they have interactions with it, and its the same here. The RTB issue is obviously hot in the press at the moment, but the lack of understanding about the true impacts that would have on “affordable housing” could lead to it being a vote winner for the Tories. People hear, “own your own home at discounted prices”, and think its a positive, aspirational policy (which it is on one level), but what that then takes away from the industry is damaging beyond belief, and the general public don’t see this.
      Lets hope that the recent movement gathers pace, and we start to get the message out to the right people! Housings future depends on it really!!


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