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Housing Futures Cymru: A fresh perspective

CIH Housing Futures Cymru is the new voice for young housing professionals in Wales. Cheryl Tracey sets out the priorities.

We all know that the sector has some significant challenges to overcome in the next few years to remain resilient organisations that can continue to be key anchors within the communities we serve.

Although these challenges can feel overwhelming and give us a sense of gloom I think we also need to recognise that now is also an exciting time to be part of the housing movement. The chips are down and this gives us a real opportunity and duty to think differently about our organisations, the services we deliver and how we continue to support communities in the context of uncertainty and financial constraints. We need to be able to adapt, change and have fearless ambition for ourselves, our tenants and our communities – as often we are the last man standing.

Within this context it is great to see the Chartered Institute of Housing open up new and meaningful ways to not only engage with young housing professionals, but give them the space and opportunity to influence and drive change within the sector.

At a UK level we are seeing this through the Members of the Future panel, who are supporting the CIH in developing a robust offer for young housing professionals, ensuring that our sector has the right skills and knowledge for the future. As part of this we’re trialling new ways of engaging with young people who are working in housing including;

  • an active and informal social media presence
  • a human library running throughout October giving people an opportunity to hear from interesting folk from across the sector
  • Careers Week in March
  • more informal, networking and engagement projects, such as CIH rounders (which I expect Wales to win!)

Closer to home we’ve seen the establishment of CIH Housing Futures Cymru, which was launched by the late Carl Sargeant at this years’ Tai conference. This group is a massive opportunity for young people and with absolute credit to the CIH Cymru team, is an innovative and meaningful way of giving young housing professionals a voice at the ‘top table’, providing them with a real opportunity to help influence Welsh Government policy and individual party manifestos.

The group will bring real lived experience from the coalface and frontline services, which most keenly experience the human impact of policy decisions. It is normally the individuals within these services who also hold key tangible ideas and solutions to the issues facing tenants, communities and the housing sector in general. This group will enable these experiences to be articulated directly to policy-makers and working alongside CIH Cymru’s Tyfu Tai Cymru project should bring about real outcomes to benefit housing in Wales.

The group itself is made up of representatives from both local authority and housing associations, with a good mix of people from all corners of Wales, which is vital as our lived experiences will be different depending on our local context.

Having been on the interview panel for the group, I was absolutely blown away by their ambition, but also the passion and drive each one of them had to not only do well for themselves, but also the communities they serve and the sector as a whole. They were optimistic, had concrete solutions to some of the big challenges facing housing and articulated these ideas succinctly and with real persuasion.

The group met in September to start nailing down themes and workstreams that we would like to take forward and have narrowed it down to three main priorities, which are:

  • Mitigating the impact of welfare reform and we have already seen the Welsh Government commit to the council tax reduction scheme and safeguard the Supporting People budget
  • Encourage more innovative thinking, including learning from pilots, projects and being able to scale them
  • Focusing on housing supply and ensuring we get the right mix and tenure. The Welsh Government has set a 20,000 year target and to meet this we may need to look at different funding regimes, the planning system, access to land and the types of homes we build. We will also need to consider the impacts of changing population health needs, such as dementia.

Ultimately the group will provide a fresh and different perspective that we hope will be valuable to policy-makers and a real asset to the housing sector within Wales.

Cheryl Tracy is chair of Housing Futures Cymru

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