The swarm of housing professionals hitting the streets of Manchester last week seemed as big as ever but it was harder to judge the general mood at this year's Chartered Institute of Housing’s (CIH) conference. Brexit fatigue and general political madness have taken their toll, and very little real policy has emerged over the last couple of years. Having come to expect so little, we’re caught out when something happens. And so it was with Theresa May’s surprise address at 3pm on Wednesday.
Inevitably, the first ten minutes were self-congratulatory – more new homes (or perhaps I mean ‘net additions’) last year, than in any of the preceding thirty years, bar one. More affordable housing, more help to buy, more funding, more tenants rights – a raft of other claims that are significant if you compare them only with the disastrous six years from 2016. The Prime Minister then moved on to housing quality. Pledging support for the Nationally Described Space Standard to become law, thereby ending the 'postcode lottery’ that its 'optional status’ was always bound to lead to.
For a Practice which has championed space standards for a long time, and never more actively than now, having witnessed he outcomes of some PDR, it was quite a moment. It still is, but it’s also bitter sweet; it will be up to her successor to take the NDSS into regulation and no doubt that means an impact assessment, a consultation, analysing evidence – two years of delaying tactics, even if the next PM supports the proposition. So, yes, it is a significant step forward but, if she feels as passionate about this as she suggested she does, why didn’t she start doing the right thing when she first took office?