Article for Progress Magazine by: Anna Scothern, Chief Executive Officer – NHIC

The need for improved housing is amongst the most important social priorities of the nation.

The fundamental problem that we face at the moment is two-fold, firstly the condition of our existing housing continues to deteriorate and secondly, housing starts remain well below the required level of demand.

The NHIC believe that the condition of our existing homes is something on which we alongside policymakers should concentrate on above other aspects. Currently, only 1 in 4 households has an energy rating of C or above (EHS 15-16)
and around 10% of households in England remain in fuel poverty (AFPSR 16). So it is hoped that Government having kept interest rates low for a number of years, will now turn to other ways of getting Britain moving again. One of these must surely be to reinforce the Conservative party pledge made 34 years ago at the 1983 election and repeated again by Theresa May
at the recent Tory Party Conference the desire ‘to make Britain the best-housed nation in Europe’. At present, we remain somewhere near the bottom of the list, primarily due to the age of our stock and the continued lack of private and social investment.

A new housing strategy needs to be worked out to take account of the massive backlog of repairs and renovation which is accumulating, as well as the reduced level of housing starts. The commitment made by Prime Minister Theresa May to invest
an additional £2bn into housing is welcomed and should be focused on a framework not only to supporting the largest house builders to increase numbers, but also investing in SME master builders to utilize small pockets of land for new build developments, thus enriching local communities alongside targeted investment in existing homes looking at ways to reduce energy demand and improve standards of living.

This new framework should see the implementation of the recommendations within Each Home Counts, focusing on the delivery of a Quality Mark alongside a programme of campaigns to stimulate public awareness on the benefits of home
improvement, through the use of compliant and legal products, not least to reduce carbon emissions as part of the action needed as a result of climate change, but also to stimulate grassroots economies and support householders throughout the
home improvement process.

It is with the householder in mind that the NHIC has redeveloped it’s digital portfolio to offer homeowners and tenants sound advice directly via the website and also through various online community groups alongside Progress magazine and a telephone helpline. The first edition alone Progress reached over 1/4million readers and remains a much-used resource online.

November sees our Annual Awards programme in its 43rd year celebrating and rewarding excellence across the home improvement sector. New categories sponsored by the NHIC Educational Trust feature this year alongside categories which
don’t only support innovations in technology and product development, but also reward those companies who go the extra mile to ensure their staff are developed and well trained as well as those who seek to support wider community benefits through home improvement.

Changes will need to take place in Government policy and in private industry’s attitude if we are really to grasp the nub of the problem, which continues to allow our older housing stock to deteriorate. We have seen signs over this past year of hope that
this has been recognized. It is too early to judge whether the recognition is broad enough to make the quantum leap that is so necessary if we are to achieve the objective of bringing the public and private sectors together to tackle the problem of our rundown cities, towns and villages.

The NHIC remain determined to give its full support to initiatives that can make a contribution  towards improving the quality of
life within the community through the improvement of homes and the surrounding environment.

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