Affordable Housing

People-focused approach to regeneration

The first six months of our £600m Strategic Partnership with Homes England has brought nearly 1,000 new homes onto site and allowed us to focus on a range of transformative projects, but we haven’t lost sight of our overarching mission – to enable our communities to create places they are proud of.

Regeneration and renewal

In 30 years’ experience in housing and development, I have never known any regeneration proposals meet with unanimous approval from the communities who will be most affected, those who will witness every stage of the process and who ultimately have the most to gain.

‘Regeneration’ means many different things to different people. For me, it is more about ‘renewal’, which means we have a duty to bring people along on the entire journey with us.

Effective placemaking requires an in-depth understanding of not just the physical, tangible infrastructure of an area, but also the economic and social drivers. We can’t hope to make effective interventions to a place without the invaluable insight of people who live and work there. The seeds simply won’t take root without a local sense of ownership.

That’s why in our work across the North West, we are steadfastly committed to enabling our customers and communities to help shape their own destiny and opportunities. Our latest Corporate Plan not only cements our objectives on housing delivery and investment into existing homes, but it is also geared towards redefining our role as an enabler to the communities we serve, working with local partners to do more.

A year in Strategic Partnership

Penned earlier this year, our £600m Strategic Partnership programme with Homes England will help us build more than 3,000 new homes, a significant contribution towards our target of 5,000 completions by 2030. Our strong working relationships with like-minded private sector partners and longstanding links with local authorities has already brought nearly 1,000 homes to site through the SP programme and we are pushing hard to bring the next 500 onto site.

As its name would suggest, the SP is about far more than just funding. Through introductions and targeted interventions, Homes England will continue to support our work to improve the affordability and choice of homes across the region. For our part, Onward is encouraged to be creative in our approach to additionality – striking the right balance between land-led developments, JVs and package deals with contractor partners – to effectively balance opportunity and risk.

I am proud that we are a member of Tameside Council’s Registered Providers Partnership, where we’re now underway with 188 new affordable homes in the latest phase of our 20-year renewal of Hattersley. Supported by both SP and GMCA Brownfield Housing funding, this latest housebuilding will support more local people to put down roots and even age in place, with affordable rent, affordable home ownership and Housing with Care tenures available.

The community in Hattersley have always been clear that this work is about renewal. Employment, training, improvements to transport and connectivity, better retail options, green infrastructure, community groups, gardens, and opening up woodlands remain their priorities, and we are continuing to deliver against these commitments.

Community-led consultation

As a long-term, enabling presence within our communities, we aren’t just focused on new homes and new customers. We have committed £300m to not only maintain our existing homes, but also to surpass our existing homes standards and ensure they are match-fit for the UK’s zero carbon future.

In Murdishaw, Runcorn, we are underway with a major retrofit programme that will channel £1.5m of funding from the Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund into energy efficiency upgrades for 132 bungalows in the neighbourhood.

This latest investment is part of a far wider community-led approach to local renewal, with proposals to deliver widespread home improvements, improved green space and new facilities over the coming years. It’s all the more exciting that this programme is being driven by local people.

Instead of a top-down approach, we have worked in partnership with the local community from the outset to develop a set of proposals driven by local people’s experiences and knowledge of the area. This led to the creation of our first Community Design Team, who have license to imagine and shape their own emerging place, working closely in partnership with Onward and Halton Council.

While our leading role on the successful SHDF funding bid with Liverpool City Region Combined Authority gave us great satisfaction, I have no doubt it will be trumped by seeing Murdishaw’s new Community Centre progress through the planning process – to deliver a genuine and lasting neighbourhood asset – created by the people who will benefit from it the most.

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