By Mark Perry, Chief Executive
In Spring 2019 the MHCLG announced a further £1bn of funding for its 23 Homes England Strategic Partners for the development of new homes between 2024 and 2029. This is good news and a recognition that with more certainty housing associations can plan longer term. But, will it be enough?
The National Housing Federation’s (NHF) response to the Comprehensive Spending Review suggests that to deliver the 340,000 new homes the country needs (90,000 for social rent) we’d need an investment of approximately £16bn. So, in comparison £2bn looks rather paltry.
So, what more can we do to help bridge the gap?
We need to drive capacity within our own organisations. We need to relentlessly question our efficiency and evaluate whether our actions really add value or whether they’re just habitual. At VIVID we tirelessly question ourselves in this way and this has enabled us to reduce our operating cost per unit year on year and invest more cash in new homes. For example, last year we self-funded 58% of our development programme from cash we generated through the business.
Plan for the future and not just the now. Forging sustainable long-term partnerships is key as is exploring new ways of working with existing partners to deliver the best for our customers.
We mustn’t get too hung up on our own agenda. As a sector we’re good at collaborating and sharing knowledge relating to customer service but, we constantly compete against each other for development opportunities to bolster our own portfolios. We all share a common purpose - to build more affordable homes – so we need to remember, it’s not about who builds the most, all that matters is homes are being built for those in need.
Working collaboratively is crucial. We should establish joint ventures with partners such as local authorities and developers to help bring forward developments, boost local economies and share risk. An example of this is Aspect, a legal structure and development model we established with two local authorities to increase housing supply and meet local need by bringing forward developments that may have otherwise stalled if we were working independently.
Finally, we can’t achieve anything if we’re not prepared to take risks. Be clear on the risks that you can take to get you to where you want to be, and review and plan for the risks you want to mitigate.
There’s still so much more the sector can do to build more homes and this new funding is a good step forward. But, if we want a country where everyone has the opportunity of having a place to call home then the government need to commit to higher levels of funding as suggested by the NHF.
We all share a common purpose - to build more affordable homes – so we need to remember, it’s not about who builds the most, all that matters is homes are being built for those in need.