In the political economies of the West the provision of social and affordable housing has been subject to major change in recent decades. Nowhere is this more evident than in local and regional government. Today, local authority architects are mostly a thing of the past; house construction by regional administrators is increasingly rare; and local government management of housing is in decline. In place of these models are a plethora of policies, approaches and players. In the UK context these include ALMOs, stock transfers, Section 106 Agreements, right-to-buy, and the growth of Housing Associations etc. In other parts of Europe and across the developed world, the names of such initiatives and groups differ, but the issues in play remain the same.
Charged with the responsibility of running cities and city regions in this context, the role of local authorities in ensuring social and affordable housing is complex. With more regional governance, budget cuts, and shifts in political priorities on the way, it will only get more so in the coming years. What governments of places like Liverpool – the host city of this event – require at this point are new approaches. The success of their innovations in housing provision will vary. Some will be seen as contradictions, some will be polemic, others welcomed. Some will fail, others will be fought… but survive. One thing is clear however, there is little choice but to innovate.
Despite recent and forthcoming changes to housing provision across the UK and further afield there remains an important role for local authorities to play. However, there is also an acknowledgement that they will not act alone. Reflecting the need to collaborate in the current context, this conference will function as a platform for the exchange of diverse ideas. It will harness the expertise that exists in housing associations, the private sector, non-government organisations, academia, charities and think tanks as well as local government will have to be harnessed and knowledge shared and utilised. In a context in which a Liverpool housing project has won the Turner Prize, it highlights a role for creatives. It will offer Local Authorities, housing and building professionals the chance to learn and debate ideas applicable now, and in the future.