Notting Hill Genesis housing association chief executive Kate Davies has unveiled a plan to create ‘Homes for Heroes’ – for NHS staff and other ‘essential’ public service workers.
‘This is for all essential workers to thank them and to make sure they are safely housed in housing that they can afford’, Davies told New London Weekly of her idea, which will be fleshed out in a paper for the G15 group being written next week.
Speaking at the NLA’s Sounding Board session held yesterday (Thursday), Davies said that, against the backdrop of COVID-19 and government asking for new ideas on housing, the key thing for the built environment professions was ‘how we can help to try and help repay some of the debt that society owes to our essential workers’.
‘I think the time has come’, said Davies, ‘for Homes for Heroes to be relaunched with an idea of providing good quality, affordable housing, probably in the outskirts of London, with good transport links where people can perhaps have a small garden which they would really, really value.’
Davies revealed that the idea will form the basis of a paper being put together by the G15 group for release next week in order to build support from housing associations, local authorities, builders and Modern Methods of Construction (MMC) providers to convince government to adopt it as part of its housing plans as a reward for a broad range of ‘essential’ workers. Although there is little as yet in terms of detail on the finances involved or which workers would qualify, Davies hopes that philanthropic gestures from the private sector could come forth, and homes could figure in a similar way to when the RAF and Army were thanked after the war, Davies added. ‘This is the zeitgeist, really’.
In the Sounding Board session, Davies said that many NHG tenants are living in high-rise blocks without even a balcony and are frightened to go out because it is so congested and they are frightened of becoming ill.
‘There might be a moment now for us linking up with MMC factories in the north of England, where people could be employed who were unemployed and learn new skills’, Davies added. This could work well in areas where there is high housing need and high unemployment.
Davies also stressed the need for this to be linked to a good transport plan to accompany this idea, prospectively venturing into the suburbs and even the Green Belt, and for the tube system to be looked at urgently. ‘It does need entirely new thinking for workers of London can come together to do their work, which I don’t think will be daily work as it has been. I think it will be occasional coming together in groups and much more remote working – and we need a transport infrastructure that can support that’.
Pocket Living’s founder and CEO Mark Vlessing said the Homes for Heroes was a concept that could have potential and be supported within Government, especially regarding homes policies they are consulting on at the moment while Ben Derbyshire of HTA said he was ‘completely behind’ the idea. ‘Let’s reinvent that with a Mark two Gordon Brown, Richard McCarthy injection of cash and grant. That’s essential in the short term’, he said. Sounding Board chairman Robert Evans of Argent suggested that perhaps the public’s attitude to public spending may now change as the ‘parameters’ have been moved in an emergency situation.
NLA curator-in-chief Peter Murray, meanwhile said: "It's just over 100 years since the nation showed its gratitude to the returning troops of WW1; this idea allows us to properly thank the heroes of the NHS and other public servants for their sacrifices as a result of COVID 19. It will be one of the positive outcomes of the current crisis and help provide decent homes for key workers. Clapping is a great way to show our appreciation; new housing is better."