12 May, 2015
The Conservatives would no doubt like to answer that one, as the first all-Tory cabinet met today for the first time in 18 years. David Cameron told them that they must focus on “bread and butter” ways of improving people’s lives and no doubt housing will be one of the issues.
Affordable housing was a campaign focus in the run up to the Election for Shelter. Their aim was to get 60,000 signatures on their petition to demand politicians build more affordable housing.
In April Shelter published research to highlight the lack of affordable homes in England and gained significant media coverage with figures that showed 80% of properties were unaffordable for first time buyers, and in 10% of local authority areas there were no affordable homes for sale at all. It generated additional headline material by highlighting that houseboats or park homes would be the only accommodation within families’ reach in parts of London.
These figures made an equally startling graphic for social media. The areas of zero affordable homes were marked in black, sitting like a cancer in the south east of the UK map.
Text-based graphics were also drip fed on to Facebook and Twitter highlighting the number of families who’d become homeless since the start of the official campaign period or in the last five days before polling opened.
The majority of us reading the information are happily securely housed and able to pay our rent or mortgages. But Shelter’s clever online tools allowed you (and still do) to picture the possibility of homelessness for yourself. Their calculator shows you how long it would take for you to save to buy a property in your area. You can also see how long it would take for your son or daughter, giving the issue a relevance to all age groups and a long–term focus.
The tool tells me that I’d be 50 before my husband and I had saved enough money to be able to buy a home where we live. This is based on the ‘average’ house price here; but in fact where I live it’s double that. We’ve been here 12 years. I’m made to imagine us having to move to a cheaper area, uprooting my son from nursery, my husband having a much longer commute to work, not being close to our friends and established network – powerful stuff when you are forced to put yourself in that situation.
The campaign included YouTube content; a film highlighting nine individuals and the housing issues they face.
Every post on every channel included a link to the petition and the charity reached its target of 60,000 signatories.
So what next?
That’s not entirely clear. The target has been reached but people are still being asked to sign the petition. The demand to build more affordable homes is clear but too simplistic without more information – how many do Shelter want and where? Will they present the petition to the housing minister? Who do these homes need to be open to?
There is plenty of evidence of the charity’s achievements so there is no doubt that action is being taken. But for highly engaged, sophisticated audiences such as Shelter no doubt has, it would be good to see from them what a successful outcome will look like.