Housing for homes and hope
You won’t be surprised to read that my first few weeks as leader of Birmingham City Council has been one long round of meetings, as I introduce myself to many of the people I believe can play a role in Birmingham’s resurgence.
I’ve met with business leaders, Government ministers, police officials, community and faith leaders, third sector organisations and more.
Many of the people I’ve had talks with are regularly featured in the pages of the Birmingham Mail and will be well known to people across the city, but one meeting that particularly stands out was with a family that most of you will never have heard of.
I caught up with them just weeks after the move and our meeting underlined for me why the first priority in Birmingham must be to build more homes.
Housing transforms lives, it transforms futures. It has an impact on people’s physical and mental health, it has impacts on education and much more.
You could see what moving to their new home meant to the Karems. You could see the joy and pride on their faces and it was wonderful to share in that joy and excitement.
There’s a housing crisis in this country and Birmingham is no exception. We need more affordable homes, we need more social housing and we need to give people hope.
The Birmingham Municipal Housing Trust is building houses in the hundreds and I’m absolutely determined that the city as a whole must now move towards building thousands.
To do that, the city council can’t act in isolation. The massive cuts to our central government funding have been well documented in this newspaper and we’ve made it clear that the council of the future will inevitably play a smaller role in city life.
But we can help create the right conditions for change. We can work with developers and landowners, we can look at creative ways to fund the housing that people across this city, people like the Karem family, need and deserve.
Building homes in the thousands each year across Birmingham by looking to release finance from the city’s other assets also helps build our economy and create new jobs and skills. There are so many benefits.
So as we look ahead and set goals for the next 12 months, my priority is clear: 2016 has to be the year when we step up a gear to provide the housing our city needs.
This blog first appeared in the Birmingham Mail on 31 December 2015.