Marketing + Communications

Seeds of change – a retrospective on Housing 2023

The last three days have been eye-opening to say the least.

Housing 2023 is a flagship event on the built environment calendar, bringing together thousands of people from all over the country to speak about the topics that matter most.

It really isn’t your average property conference. Manchester Central was filled with people representing tenant voices, housing association staff, investors and policymakers. Everyone with skin in the game was on site ready to take on the issues that matter most.

With the exhibition hall mostly product innovations and technology solutions, it was a joy to be out of the design and planning bubble and closer to the coal face. However, the real gold to be mined at the conference came from the panel discussions, the conversations and the round tables and workshops.

Here is a quick rundown of our biggest talking points from the conference. Housing 2023 is a big event and way too large for us to get to every talk and workshop, so don’t treat it as an exhaustive list. But it should give you some insight into where we are as an industry and what the future could look like if we get the change right.

A push for innovation and problem-solving

Facing a range of challenges, from the pressing need for net-zero, to the ever-growing housing crisis, the Housing 2023 conference in Manchester served as a bustling hub of innovation and problem-solving. The air of collaboration was prevalent as diverse stakeholders ranging from registered providers to construction firms, architects and engineers convened, sharing a resolve to untangle the complex issues confronting the industry.

The conversations that took place at the conference went far beyond the norms of trade talks and corporate networking. At the heart of the discussions was the growing realisation that the housing industry is not simply about brick and mortar – it is intrinsically about people.

What we do is about people, not simply bricks and mortar

One of the most contentious issues discussed at the conference was the daunting 300,000 homes target. Angela Mansell, a Luma client, captured the crux of the matter, stating, “Construction is about people, not just buildings”. This sentiment captures the core values underpinning the industry’s approach towards the housing crisis. Beyond the numerical targets are real people who deserve safe, fit-for-purpose homes that contribute positively to their quality of life. This understanding should propel the industry’s commitment to uniting efforts to solve these problems.

There is a human cost if we don’t do the work required to address these issues.

Passionate and eye-opening keynotes

The conference welcomed a range of insightful keynote speakers offering challenging perspectives.

Hashi Mohammed, a planning barrister who rose from challenging beginnings as a refugee, passionately advocates for meaningful change in housing through his book, A Home of One’s Own. The dialogue between Hashi and Gaby Hinsliff set a compelling tone for the conference, with Hashi’s assertion that the housing crisis is a societal disease needing ‘major surgery, not paracetamol’ resonating profoundly with me. This powerful sentiment served as a touchstone for the remainder of the conference, prompting the question – are we truly prepared to embrace change?

Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester, also delivered a compelling keynote, underscoring the need for strict standards for rented homes and calling for the government to empower local authorities with greater regulatory power. He emphasised that the transformation required in the housing sector could only be achieved if a good, safe, and secure home is recognised as a fundamental human right in UK law.

The “300,000 Homes, Easy Right?” keynote brought together figures from across the industry who shared their insights on achieving the ambitious housing target. Modern methods of construction (MMC) and offsite techniques took centre stage during the discussions, attracting much of the audience’s questions. Angela Mansell, representing Mansell Building Solutions, spoke fervently about the potential role of MMC in meeting housing targets and outlined the necessary changes needed for its widespread implementation. She carefully laid down her views on a blog to accompany the talk called The road to 300,000: Harnessing the power of offsite construction.

The bottom line

It seems like every time we do one of these retrospective articles on an industry event, we always come equipped with the same sentiments.

“There are big issues facing our industry”

“We need industry innovation to solve these issues”

“We must show a desire to change and can only solve these problems through collaboration”

You’d be forgiven for thinking that ringing the same bell each time suggests we’re not getting anywhere. But at Housing 2023, there was a feeling that we might just be starting to see positive movement.

An industry ready to take on the challenge and start doing rather than saying.

Leaders coming together to talk about how they can work together to make the changes needed.

A stark realisation that we can’t go on doing things the way we always have.

The industry is starting to understand. The times they are a-changing. Change with them, or get left behind.

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