When Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, took to the stage during CIH’s Housing 2021, he discussed one of the key issues that dominated the 3-day event: how high-quality housing must play a central part in the Government’s levelling up agenda.  

During his keynote speech, Burnham stated that levelling up must start within the homes as we cannot expect individuals and families to live a good life without access to quality housing.  

In the days since Housing 2021, one of our key considerations has been: what do the Government actually mean when they refer to levelling up?  

At the moment, levelling up is something everybody can buy into as it hasn’t been wholly defined. Yet, there’s much to consider and question about this new agenda: will the power of decision making be devolved to local authorities who have a vast knowledge and understanding of their particular region? Is levelling up about investing in the North as much as the South? 

Or is it, in more general terms, about giving everybody the opportunities to make a better life? If it is all of the above, the Government runs the risk of the agenda becoming a slogan that doesn’t fully achieve what it sets out to do.  

The gov.uk website states, “the UK government is committed to levelling up across the whole of the United Kingdom to ensure that no community is left behind, particularly as we recover from the COVID-19 pandemic”. Yet this still feels deliberately vague. In the coming weeks, when more information is released, we hope that a clear definition of levelling up becomes apparent, outlining what the scheme will attempt to address.  

What we do know is that Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, has confirmed that the £4.8bn levelling up fund will be used to invest in infrastructure that improves everyday life across the UK, including regenerating town centres and high streets, upgrading local transport, and investing in cultural and heritage assets.  

Yet, the belief that housing must be at the very core of levelling up resonates with the team at Pathway Homes Group. Research from the Northern Housing Consortium (NHC) revealed that the pandemic and lockdowns highlighted huge problems with housing quality and found that already poor conditions were getting worse.  

For us, housing always tops the agenda. To guarantee levelling up is a success, we believe that the Government must begin locally and actually respond to the public’s concerns relating to access to stable and affordable housing.  

One thing we have taken away from CIH is that levelling up must be about putting the needs of people and communities first – collaborating with the wider community network to improve health and wellbeing, education, employment, and other opportunities. Yet, to ensure each of these is achievable for people and communities, we must first ensure that everybody is able to live safely and comfortably in a high-quality and sustainable home.  

The levelling up agenda must not lose sight of who is at the centre of the scheme, people and their communities. We believe that the first step to a better life is access to stable housing.