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?
@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!