Earlier this month, I spoke at the ‘big housing debate – North’ which brought together housing professionals from across the region and the sector to discuss what’s shaping delivery.
One of the main themes of the event focused on the need to build to more – a challenge which isn’t new but has been reignited following the Autumn Budget. Everybody knows we need more housing but the overriding message from those in the room was that building new homes for sale isn’t the sole solution.
As a sector, we need to be thinking bolder and more collaboratively to provide the homes required not only in terms of volume but to ensure they meet the needs of local communities and the wider area.
This requires a more forensic approach, focusing on investment and regeneration in key areas and engaging more effectively with those that live there. Regeneration has had an unfavorable reputation in some areas, mainly linked to those involved second guessing what is required in a locality, which can lead to unsustainable schemes. To avoid this, there must be more willingness to engage with local residents and stakeholders to establish what people really need – now and in the future. This will help to determine the types of housing required, helping to deliver mixed tenures rather than just homes for sale, as well as vital infrastructure and promote a job market to sustain future growth.
As highlighted at the event, delivering the correct type of infrastructure is still a challenge in many areas, but confidence is key. Your Housing Group has demonstrated that through its ongoing investment in its Anfield regeneration project, a commitment that has helped to give other partners the confidence to invest in certain areas and get the regeneration ball rolling.
Another message underlined at the debate, was a need for honesty. Increasingly, we are seeing registered providers (RPs) join forces with other associations and local authorities to help boost supply, such as Home Groups work at the Gateshead Big project. To be effective, these partnerships must make best use of each party’s skills and strengths. This requires open, honest and frank conversations from the outset about what each party can bring to the table whether that’s experience and skills in development or local knowledge and connections that would help to deliver specialist healthcare facilities and services. This will lay the foundation for a more productive and sustainable relationship that meets the needs of each party, and most importantly of local communities.
There is clearly lots of housing innovation already taking place across the north. As in all regions, more can – and needs to – be done. But by learning from others, being bolder in terms of investment and listening to local people and each other, there is a huge opportunity for housing providers to not only build more, but be at the forefront of regeneration that will benefit communities now and in the future.
Jonathan Corris is a partner in our real estates and projects team.