Access to social housing is key priority, says council boss

Social Housing SponsorsIncreasing the supply of social housing will remain a significant challenge for the foreseeable future, with many poorer families unable to access home ownership, according to Paul Beardmore, director of housing at Manchester City Council.

Speaking to around 100 attendees at the Place North West Social Housing Forum held at Lancashire County Cricket Ground and sponsored by KPMG, Hill Dickinson and Vinci, Beardmore outlined the council's current position on social housing.

Home ownership accounts for 46% of Manchester households, with another 36% in social housing and the private rented market 18%. The council has 2,000 homes, which was meant to be zero, Beardmore said but had not yet been achieved. Arm's length management organisations and registered social landlords account for 90,000 homes and there have been nine major stock transfers of council houses.

Beardmore said the key challenge is supply and is set to get worse as the public sector input of stock is predicted to reduce. Demand is such that Manchester will require 60,000 extra homes by 2027.

Beardmore said: "Supply going down and demand going up creates chaos."

Manchester's response is to use the new 'combined authority' of ten Greater Manchester local authorities to drive economic growth, which should in turn boost home ownership.

Beardmore suggested the councils should have fewer priorities and concentrate on opening up access to housing.

The super-authority powers being granted to the ten Greater Manchester councils by government will allow them to form a single policy using a single pot of funding, which should be more efficient, Beardmore said.

He added: "The old rules of housing have gone. We have to make the best use of our assets and form new management roles and partnerships with investors and developers to try and overcome the challenges of supply."

Also speaking at the event were Maggie Shannon, director of innovation and performance at Great Places Housing and Ged Lucas, deputy chief executive of Stockport Council.

Shannon reiterated that demand was outstripping supply and said social housing was at a crossroads, needing to concentrate on its core business, customers and values and needing to find new solutions and partnerships to show low-risk models to new funding partners.

Social housing eventLucas said there was a challenge looming for local authorities to maintain frontline services in the face of budget cuts and reduction in benefits to tenants.

Following the three keynote speeches there were breakout roundtable sessions on planning, corporate strategy, building and finance chaired by experts in those fields.

The event concluded with a panel discussion featuring Bill Enevoldson, head of public sector at KPMG, John Holmes, partner and head of planning at Hill Dickinson, Diane Walton, head of area for Cheshire and Merseyside at the Homes & Communities Agency and Tony Ford, operations director of Vinci Facilities.

Topics covered in questions from the floor included the role of the forthcoming Jessica funds underwritten by the European Investment Bank and whether they could be used for housing. Initially they will be available for commercial space only but receipts from commercial schemes could then go towards residential units, the panel clarified.

All panellists agreed the private sector developer has a role to play in helping meet supply needs but would have to find a way of making projects viable without grant support, which remained difficult.

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Really interesting read this.

By Neil

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