New boss of National Housing Federation singles out government’s ‘short-termism’ for criticism at conference

The head of England’s housing associations has accused the government of carrying out its housing growth plans on the cheap.

David Orr, in his first speech as National Housing Federation chief executive, told delegates at the organisation’s annual conference in Birmingham that ministers were adopting a short-term approach to solving the housing crisis.

Orr, who took over from his long serving predecessor Jim Coulter during the summer, said: “Government rhetoric and eye-catching housing initiatives, such as HomeBuy and the £60,000 home competition, are all supposedly part of the neighbourhoods agenda. Although they are admirable initiatives in their own right, so far I have seen little evidence of a coherent strategy to ensure that successful neighbourhoods will exist in 30 years. Instead, it’s all about building as many houses as cheaply as possible, as quickly as possible, rather than a long-term vision.”

Orr also restated the federation’s opposition to the opening up of social housing grant to private developers. He said: “Giving public money to private developers might provide extra houses in the short term, but where are the long-term commitments to resident participation, community investment and neighbourhood safety? There is a serious risk shareholder profit will take priority over public benefit. Not-for-profit housing associations remain the best delivery agents for affordable homes and sustainable communities.”

I have seen little evidence of a coherent long-term strategy

David Orr, chief executive, NFB

Steve Douglas, Housing Corporation deputy chief executive, told delegates that associations needed to offer evidence that mergers were justified.

The conference follows the publication of ODPM figures this week showing that despite its efforts to increase housing supply the number of households living in temporary accommodation has risen 1% over the past year to 100,970.

The conference is due to be addressed by communities secretary David Miliband today.

What’s in Orr’s in-tray

  • Regulation The Housing Corporation is carrying out a review of the way registered social landlords are regulated
  • Grant for developers Associations face competition for housing grant from developers for the first time from 2006
  • Eco-design Associations are under pressure to improve green standards
  • Planning Associations say getting planning permission for schemes is getting more difficult