Partnership approach vital to meet challenges of fast-changing housing sector in Kent and Medway – KHG Conference 2024

Partnership approach is vital to meet challenges of the fast-changing housing sector in Kent and Medway

The housing industry in Kent and Medway has been urged to embrace “the power of partnership” to better meet the pressing demands of a sector which is undergoing huge change.

The many challenges and opportunities facing the public and private housing sector in the region were examined when more than 220 industry professionals attended the Kent Housing Group Conference 2024 at the Kent Event Centre on Tuesday 5 March.

It was organised by the Kent Housing Group (KHG) in association with Birketts, Counties and Capital Consulting and Stantec.

Delegates from organisations involved in the delivery of public and private sector housing gathered for the event. KHG members, developers, registered providers, planners, architects, contractors, policy-makers, consultants and special interest groups attended to make their voices heard.

Sally Bundock with panellists Dr Ellen Schwartz, Neil Diddams and James Williams.

The conference was chaired by BBC presenter Sally Bundock, while keynote speeches were delivered by Kate Willard OBE, Chair of the Thames Estuary Growth Board, and Cllr Roger Gough, Leader of Kent County Council. The event was delivered by White Label Creative.

Panel discussions featuring experts from across the industry reflected the themes of the Kent and Medway Housing Strategy 2020-2025, and discussions will now help KHG to formulate their future strategy. The programme included health and wellbeing; working together for safer homes; infrastructure first; the planning process and accelerating housing delivery; and affordability, inclusivity and flexibility.

Brian Horton, Kent Housing Group Chair

KHG Chair Brian Horton said a common thread running through the panel discussions and questions from the floor was the importance of collaboration, partnership and working together to resolve the many challenges facing the housing sector.

“The power of partnership was something that speaker after speaker highlighted as a key requirement of getting things done the right way. For example, an infrastructure-first approach will ensure that new roads, health services and shops is provided alongside new housing rather than bolted on as an after-thought.

“Other hot topics included integrated care to support public health, housing provision for older people, overcoming obstacles to delivering more affordable housing, and the impact that nutrient neutrality issues at Stodmarsh lakes are having in blocking new homes development in the River Stour catchment area, mostly in the Ashford and Canterbury districts.

KCC Leader Cllr Roger Gough

“In addition to informing, educating and enthusing key stakeholders and members, our conference has succeeded in provided strategic advice and a Kent perspective on the biggest topics and issues facing the housing sector today and into the future,” added Brian Horton.

KCC Leader Cllr Roger Gough told the conference: “Partnership pays! By attending today we are demonstrating that. The Kent Housing Group works closely with all the key players in the housing sector, from planners and developers to housing providers, health professionals and many more.”

Programme highlights included:
Healthier homes, healthier communities, happier lives

  • This session looked at how housing, health and social care sectors can best collaborate to ensure a higher level of health and wellbeing within communities.

Safe as houses

  • We considered the challenges involved in ensuring decent, secure, healthy, warm homes, whether new build or existing homes, regardless of tenure.

Housing, infrastructure investment and zero carbon targets

  • Our focus in this session was infrastructure investment into Kent and Medway and the ways in which stakeholders can support and influence delivery.

The planning process and housing delivery

  • Our experts on this panel discussed the main challenges and barriers in accelerating the delivery of homes across Kent and Medway and debated the major planning reforms they think are needed to speed up delivery.

Affordability, inclusivity and flexibility

  • We focused on the most effective ways to deliver the right type, tenure and location of affordable homes that meet the housing needs of Kent and Medway.