Capital Letters Logo

Reimagining solutions to family homelessness


Conference programme

Wednesday 6 July 2022, all day

BMA House, Tavistock Square, London WC1H 9JP

8.30am – 9.30am – Registration and networking breakfast

9.30am – 10.15am – Keynote address and questions

Eddie Hughes MP, Minister for Rough Sleeping and Housing

Capital Letters is the only family homelessness procurement service directly funded by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities. The Minister explains why finding solutions to family homelessness is a priority for government, with the private rented sector playing a pivotal role.

10.15am – 10.30am – Scene-setting for the day

Sue Coulson, Chief Executive, Capital Letters

London faces a growing homeless crisis. The private rented sector has had a resurgence since the lifting of the pandemic restrictions with market rents sky high and affordable housing contracting. The rising cost of living is impacting on people’s ability to pay rent, with 60,000 families in temporary accommodation. 

Housing is a complex system covering government, the property market, politics and tenants. When one part of the system doesn’t work, it has an unintended detrimental impact on low-income households.

Sue Coulson suggests that it is time to reimagine the solutions to this intractable problem. We cannot continue using the same approaches and expecting different outcomes. That is why we have brought together key stakeholders at this unique conference to challenge received wisdom and consider what we can do differently.

10.30am – 10.50am – Coffee

10.50am – 11.35am – Panel discussion

Housing complexity: what has systems thinking taught us about homelessness, and have we learned the lessons yet?

Chair: Paul Morrish, Chief Executive, LandAid

Professor Alex Marsh, University of Bristol and UK Collaborative Centre for Housing Evidence (CaCHE)

Dr Ligia Teixeira, Centre for Homelessness Impact

Drawing on his work with UK Collaborative Centre for Housing Evidence (CaCHE), Professor Alex Marsh explains why the relationship between the private rented market; the benefits system; social housing and the statutory housing duties are a “complex system”.

What are the unintended consequences and negative feedback loops that derail progress in reducing homelessness? In this session, we are reminded of the important lessons from systems thinking applied to housing, and Dr Ligia Teixeira offers an evidence-based perspective on “what works”.

11.40am – 12.25pm – Panel discussion

Kicking the habit: how can councils reduce their reliance on temporary accommodation?

Chair: Modester Anucha, Corporate Director for Housing Strategy & Options, Waltham Forest Council

Claire Harding, Research Director, Centre for London

Abigail Davies, Director, Housing Consultancy, Savills

Deven Ghelani, Director, Policy in Practice

Temporary accommodation is bad for families and cost the taxpayer £1bn in London alone last year. Yet thousands of families remain stuck in TA for months or even years. So how can we radically change our housing practice so that more of the resources spent on keeping families in unsuitable temporary accommodation are directed at increasing the supply of affordable homes for them to settle in long term?

Claire Harding highlights the findings of a forthcoming report on temporary accommodation, while Deven Ghelani helps us understand the impact of benefits policy such as capping on families unable to leave TA. Abigail Davis provides data on rising rents that highlight the challenges faced by councils trying to find homes in the private rented sector.

12.35pm – 1.35pm – Lunch and networking

1.45pm – 2.20pm – The Big Debate

Are landlords part of the solution to the homelessness crisis (and if not, why not?)

Ben Beadle, Chief Executive, National Residential Landlords Association

Matt Downie MBE, Chief Executive, Crisis

In the latest English private landlord survey, more landlords say they are willing to let to tenants claiming benefits. So do landlords and investors see themselves as part of the solution to homelessness, and how can statutory work with them to increase the supply of affordable homes?

We bring together two of the most formidable campaigners and policy influencers in housing to debate the role of private landlords in tackling the homelessness crisis.

2.25pm – 3.05pm – Panel discussion

Creating spaces: Rethinking office conversions and raising standards of permitted development schemes

Chair: Paul Hackett, Director, Smith Institute

Dr Ben Clifford, UCL Bartlett School of Planning

Stephanie Pollitt, Programme Director for Housing, London First

Eloise Shepherd, Strategic Lead, Housing and Planning, London Councils

The argument is simple: convert surplus offices and retail space into affordable housing. Yet in practice, permitted development schemes often fall short of a sustainable solution to housing shortages and are stuck in the ‘too difficult’ box.

Despite the bad press, we ask our expert panel to discuss how permitted development conversions can be successfully used to meet the need for affordable, good quality homes and what the challenges and barriers will be in making this possible.

Ben Clifford draws on his extensive research on permitted development, while Stephanie Pollitt looks at the build-to-rent market’s response to affordability in London and Eloise Shepherd provides a London local authority perspective.

3.05pm – 3.25pm – Tea

3.25pm – 4.10pm – Panel discussion

Levelling up for London renters: can we improve standards; decarbonise homes, and increase access for low-income families?

Chair: Laurence Coaker, Head of Housing Needs, Brent Council and Acting Chair of Capital Letters

Tom Copley, Deputy Mayor for Housing, Greater London Authority

Joanne Drew, Housing and Regeneration Director, Enfield Council and Co-Chair of the London Housing Directors Group

Sam Bruce, Head of Housing and Communities, Centre for Social Justice

The government is proposing to apply the decent homes standard to the private rented sector; the Mayor of London is investing in landlord enforcement, while London councils have committed to an unprecedented retrofit programme to raise EPC ratings across all tenures.

Our expert panel, including Joanne Drew who chaired the Home Retrofit Task and Finish Group, considers how the funding to back this combined political ambition can be found, and whether there is a risk that landlords or tenants will end up paying the price.

4.15pm – 4.45pm – Conference call to action

We are the housing system so let’s change it!

Cllr Darren Rodwell, Leader, London Borough of Barking and Dagenham; Deputy Chair, Housing and Planning, London Council

Sue Coulson, Chief Executive, Capital Letters

On behalf of local housing authorities across London, Cllr Darren Rodwell calls on the public, private and voluntary sector organisations in the room to work together. We must ensure our complex housing system works better everyone, particularly those on low incomes in urgent need of more secure and settled home.

Our panel considers how the funding to back this combined political ambition can be found, and whether there is a risk that landlords or tenants will end up paying the price.

4.45pm – Close