By David Cowans, Group Chief Executive, Places for People

The recent government announcement of £2bn to build new social housing is a welcome change for 2022 and beyond, but to boost delivery now there has to be a focus on wider partnerships.

As highlighted by Theresa May in her speech to the National Housing Summit, our broken housing market is not a challenge for central government alone.

Working together

The crisis is so severe that it can only be tackled by many different parties working together.

The government has been clear about its role in that approach.

The Homes England strategic partnership model is just one way in which it is working with other parties to help boost delivery.

Eight partners, including Places for People, have already been confirmed and together will deliver around 14,000 additional affordable homes by March 2022. A great start but much more needs to be done.

To deliver the huge number of homes we need across the UK, all housing providers must step up to the plate and find ways to develop different kinds of partnerships both with the public and private sector.

One of the biggest opportunities for housing associations to step up delivery is through partnerships with local authorities.

Innovative partnerships

Under increasing pressure to find new sources of funding, but maintain services and meet housing demands, there is a growing keenness for local authorities to form new and more innovative partnerships.

We are already seeing some councils recognising the benefits of partnership working and joining forces with specialist organisations, which can bring complementary skills and innovative financial models to the table. In some cases, this is being done alongside a municipal housing company, or in others, the joint venture is undertaking the work.

To be successful, the joint venture model must be based on mutual trust, good communication, effective governance arrangements, shared objectives and a sound understanding of each local context.

Surrey County Council is a recent example of a local authority taking a more strategic approach to housing.

In a joint venture with Places for People, it will unlock sites that it owns but no longer requires and utilise them for development, creating economic growth, jobs, sustainable investment and assets to go to generate additional revenue streams for the local authority. The county will also benefit from the delivery of new homes for sale and rent, including affordable homes, with the first expected to be completed in 2019.

At a time when the public sector continues to face financial pressures, this is an innovative way of investing land and capital to deliver much-needed homes across the county, while also creating a strong investment portfolio for the council and delivering employment opportunities for local businesses and residents.

As the government continues to take positive steps towards more viable solutions to get Britain building at the scale required, housing providers must do the same.

In her speech, Ms May acknowledged that housing associations could “achieve things neither private developers nor local authorities are capable of doing.” That’s true, but there is also a huge opportunity for us to all work together to deliver even more.

By developing strategic partnerships and forming joint ventures and other structures with complementary organisations, there is huge potential to overcome barriers to development and build more homes, faster and to a higher standard, and to create places that work now and in the future.

This blog was first featured in Inside Housing on 2 October 2018.

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