The Centre for the New Midlands’ (CNM) inaugural Housing and Communities Annual Lecture bought together business leaders from across the West Midlands last week, to discuss how the region should best tackle growing challenges within the housing sector.
The Coventry-based not-for-profit organisation was joined by industry professionals and prominent academics at HSBC’s offices in Centenary Square, Birmingham, for some lively discussions around matters such as reform within both social housing and the private rented sector, homelessness, and rough sleeping.
Conservative MP for Walsall North, Eddie Hughes, the Minister for Rough Sleeping and Housing, spearheaded proceedings, delivering a keynote speech about the Government’s priorities for Housing and Communities. His speech provided a greater insight into the Government’s recently announced Renters’ Reform Bill, the Social Housing Bill which aims to create a robust regulatory framework to drive up standards, and Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill which should help make better use of empty buildings.
Consultant Alan Fraser, board member at Centre for the New Midlands, with nearly thirty years of experience working in the fields of social housing and homelessness, commented: “This was an excellent event, which was a great way for CNM’s Housing & Communities advisory board to launch itself into the consciousness of the sector.
“What struck me was how, on some issues at least, there is still much at stake. I was pleased to see that the minister is very much listening to industry feedback around matters such as the problems in the Exempt Accommodation sector, and what advice to issue to social landlords about next year’s rent increases.
“It’s important for the sector in the region to come together through organisations like CNM to make sure that he has something coherent to hear.”
Over 50 organisations were represented at the event from across the West Midlands which offered delegates the opportunity to not only partake in a Q&A with Mr Hughes about the Government’s stance on the challenges facing the housing sector but also share ideas with their contemporaries on how local business can help support regional development.
Chris Smith, Founder and Managing Director at Centre for the New Midlands, added: “This event presented us with a unique opportunity to take stock and re-evaluate how we can do things better across our region. Whilst promises to “level up” parts of the country by reducing the disparity in localised growth have been hampered by the pandemic, regional businesses, people and community can still make a difference by accepting they have an equal responsibility for driving change.
“This is why it was great to see such a broad range of organisations join us for this lecture. It shows there is a real appetite within the region for pushing the political agenda when it comes to improving the communities in which we operate.
We are the region’s only independent, apolitical think tank, and events like these are crucial for us to deliver our mission of being the place where people go to debate, create and shape a ‘better’ region.”
Centre for the New Midlands was established in 2020 with the purpose of tackling the big political and social issues facing the region, utilising impartial research and public engagement to devise new concepts and strategies which will help to make the Midlands a ‘better’ place to live, work, study, invest and play.
This was the first annual CNM lecture held specifically to target the Housing and Communities sector. Future events will focus on the organisation’s four other core growth areas, ‘Devolution and Governance’, ‘Digital, Culture, Media and Sport’, ‘Environment, Transport and Infrastructure’, and ‘Globalising the West Midlands’, each with an emphasis on improving the social fabric of the region and not just the economic performance of the Midlands.
Event delegate Dr Yoric Irving-Clarke, Policy Manager at Midland Heart, concluded: “I was really pleased to be able to attend the inaugural Centre for the New Midlands lecture and it was great to see Eddie Hughes MP supporting the Centre and the region so strongly. The lecture provided much food for thought and I thought it was a great success. Events like this are essential for hearing from influential people and taking forward an agenda for the region to grow.”