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This week marked the Chartered Institute of Housing’s annual Housing Conference, which saw over 9,500 guests register to attend over 3 days to take part in exhibitions and thought-leadership sessions from voices across the UK’s housing sector. For us at Social, who have worked closely with organisations in the sector and have a passion for the built environment, it was an event not to be missed. And this year, we were there to run a Hackathon and deliver presentations on Unlock Net Zero, a knowledge hub focused on the transition to a Net Zero future. Here are some of the things that we explored and discovered across the three days.

The event, which took place at Manchester Central, is marked as a key date in the calendar for the housing sector to get together, learn, and make new connections. After a reserved return last year, every exhibitor and guest we spoke to was thrilled to see such a positive turn-out and excited to be back networking in more ‘normal’ circumstances. With 10 theatres, 450+ speakers, 8000+ attendees and 300+ sponsors and exhibitors over the three days, the conference is the biggest meeting place for the whole housing sector, which has collaborated more strongly than ever and demonstrated its resilience, leadership and the efforts of extraordinary individuals who continue to deliver for those living in our communities in recent years.

There really is nothing like the buzz of an in-person event and it was great to see some of our clients there including Lovell, but to also meet with new faces.

Housing 2022

Throughout the event, the main points of discussion centred around the levelling-up agenda; skills; leadership and innovation; town-centre regeneration; partnerships for the delivery of more affordable housing; sustainability and retrofitting of old housing stock; delivery of safe, high-quality housing; funding and driving the economic recovery.

There were keynote speeches from key players in the industry including Gavin Smart, Chief Executive of the Chartered Institute of Housing; Mayor Andy Burnham, Greater Manchester Combined Authority; and the Minister for Housing, the Rt Hon Stuart Andrew MP, who all explored the scale and nature of the housing crisis and how housing professionals can work together to provide solutions.

Many of the pavilions were visually impressive with exhibitors, suppliers, housebuilders, and developers on hand to share their insights and showcase new opportunities. The event remains a key event for local authorities, housing associations and government, all of which have a critical role to play in unlocking delivery. Session themes across the three days included the ‘devolution revolution’; empowering and collaborating with local leaders to ensure the best outcome for local people; the economy; and making progress on health and housing partnerships.

Industry experts also shared insights across core topics such as building safety, financial health and wellbeing, tackling homelessness, complaints handling and how best to address these for the good of all.

The conference also offered private round-table discussions, an Energy House 2.0 study tour and a vast amount of fringe events which happened right across Manchester city centre.

For me personally, it was fantastic to see this conference come alive and the sector so passionate about the opportunities that working together will unlock – something that has been more challenging for the sector over the last two years.

The Climate Change Hackathon

On the first day of the event, the Social team descended on a surprisingly sunny Manchester to host our first Climate Change Hackathon, in which we challenged attendees at Housing 2022 to come up with corporate campaigns all about talking to your neighbour about climate change. The aim was to better understand where communication around the climate crisis could be improved and find ways to encourage everyone to do their bit.

We were joined by industry leaders and experts from to guide our hackers and judge the final hacks, including Gareth Evans, Head of Operations at Spectra; Ned Gatenby, Social Housing Sector Lead at The Carbon Literacy Project; Sally Hancox, Head of Social Housing at The Retrofit Academy; Mark Southgate, Chief Executive at MOBIE; Sarah Humphrys, co-founder of AimHi; and our very own founder and chief executive at Social, John Quinton-Barber. The winning hack will become a live campaign later this year and will be voted for by via the Housing conference app, from a shortlist created by our expert judges.

It was a pleasure to be joined by a fantastic group of year 10 pupils from St Thomas More RC College in Stockport for our first two hacks, as well as attendees from across the housing sector. Surrounded by gorgeous greenery and the buzz of the exhibitions close by, our hackers put their heads together and came up with some outstanding campaigns. The outputs were presented in Tweet form and ranged from TikTok sustainability challenges to all things electric cars and growing your own greens.

The winner will be announced at the final day of the conference. We cannot wait to discover which campaign we will get to explore further, and as a team we have come away from Housing 2022 full of ideas and optimism. It was inspiring to see themes of climate change, sustainability, and inclusion front-and-centre across the floor, coupled with the positivity all round.

We hope to see you at Housing 2023!