Daventry MP Chris Heaton-Harris visited the Daventry & District Housing (DDH) offices to answer housing and welfare-related questions from staff and tenants.
During the event, which is part of the National Housing Federation’s 1,000 conversations campaign to make the case for housing to the Government, the Conservative MP spoke about extending the Right to Buy to housing associations, the future of local housing provision and the impact of further welfare reforms.
Mr Heaton-Harris disagreed with recent suggestions in the national media that housing associations are the villains of the housing crisis and praised the services DDH provides to local residents.
DDH executive director, Alan Brunt, said: “I am really grateful to Chris for giving up his time to answer some probing questions and for speaking so candidly. It was refreshing to hear his encouraging words about DDH and the good reports he receives from our tenants about the work we do.
“It’s vitally important that DDH maintains what is already an excellent working relationship with our local MP, particularly as housing associations are facing an increasingly challenging future. By working more closely with the government we can hopefully ensure the future of high-quality, affordable housing in the Daventry district.”
When asked about improving housing provision in Daventry and across the country, Mr Heaton-Harris, said: “While we want more housing, we feel policy is in the right place, it just needs to bed down. With regard to housing supply, you only get more houses when the economy goes in the right direction.
“Daventry has a lot to offer for people wanting to move here. The local economy is good, there are jobs and it’s a nice part of the country. Daventry is growing, the people are friendly and there are a good number of services.
“In the UK in general, housing is so expensive that it is hard to save for a deposit. We want young people to either stay in full-time education or stay within their family unit because we know it is difficult for people to get on the housing ladder. If we get the economy right, people can earn more and afford to get on the property ladder.”
On the controversial Right to Buy extension to housing associations, the Daventry MP said: “There is scope for the conditions of Right to Buy change, but not the principle. The full details will be revealed in the upcoming Housing Bill and a number of factors will come into play before the Bill is fully formed.
“I am sure that the Government will ensure there is a big enough fund for housing associations to replace the stock with new properties. There will be some calculation about what that fund looks like - but certainly the idea is to help replace the stock.”
Further cuts to housing benefit have also been a contentious issue for housing associations with many of their tenants likely to be affected.
Speaking openly about the government’s continued focus on welfare reform, Mr Heaton-Harris said: “The Housing Welfare Bill was a cause of debate in the run up to the election as, quite simply, it was unsustainable. I don’t think anyone was surprised by the cuts to Housing Benefit as there was a realisation that something had to be done.
“The biggest change that would help people is the continued implementation of Universal Credit which packages up benefits, treats people as individuals and makes work pay. There are currently 200 people in Daventry on Universal Credit and it is working well in other parts of the country.”
In the run up to this year’s election, housing associations across the country, including Daventry & District Housing, came together through the Homes for Britain campaign. The unprecedented national campaign successfully raised the profile of housing, placing it firmly on the political agenda and emphasising the depth of the housing crisis.
DDH will continue to promote the positive work done by housing associations and convey the message that by working alongside the Government, housing associations can provide a viable and sustainable solution to the housing crisis.