For the first time in decades, the constraints holding back local authorities from using the value of their housing stock to borrow and build new homes for local residents have been released, writes Aimee Law of Galliford Try Partnerships.
In announcing the policy change the Prime Minster reminded us that the housing crisis is “the biggest challenge of our generation”. The release of the cap on borrowing is certainly a huge shift, presenting an unprecedented opportunity for local authorities to transform their housing portfolio and the lives of thousands of people. But the policy change to lift the Housing Revenue Account borrowing cap should not be seen as a silver bullet, and in fact many authorities don’t have a HRA but still want, and need, to develop. This is just the first step in unlocking the door that will help to achieve the much trumpeted 300,000 homes needed each year.
To build homes you need land, something most councils will have a stockpile of and there are sites they would like to see used in the first tranche of building. Some of this land has been on the books for some time and comes with its own set of challenges. It’s going to take some innovative solutions, and partnerships built on trust and expertise to deliver these projects that are likely to be pushed to the front of the development queue. Regeneration businesses and developers are going to have to be smart and nimble to deliver the best results.
It is not a case of ‘one size fits all’, so as a sector we are going to have to be thoughtful and flexible in both the methods used to bring sites forward and the mix of tenure. That will allow the more profitable tenures to feed money back into councils’ coffers enabling further development. And to deliver these additional homes, we need a skilled workforce, and that is an issue the construction and development industry has been tackling for some time.
Galliford Try Partnerships has had recent experience of a number of collaborative projects just like this. At Chase Park in Ellesmere Port we unlocked the former greyhound stadium brownfield site in partnership with Cheshire West & Chester Council to deliver one of the first phases of 2,000 new homes in the area. The scheme has seen the council deliver their first affordable homes in more than 40 years and has proved to be a successful early win for the £2bn regeneration of Ellesmere Port.
Another example is the £100m New Brunswick regeneration project which will see the development of 436 new homes, a retirement community, retail units and a social housing support office. The landmark scheme is the UK’s final Private Finance Initiative project and will bring much needed investment and fresh life to a part of Manchester that is within easy walking distance from Piccadilly station. The scheme has been delivered in partnership between Manchester City Council, Galliford Try and S4B Homes and the large-scale project has been rooted in the community and is making a positive impact on local lives.
This is a once-in-a-career opportunity for quality developers and local authorities with a genuine passion and understanding of partnership, and possibly the biggest opportunity to solve our housing crisis for a generation. But it’s only going to work through co-operation, innovation and partnership working.
- Aimee Law is head of partnerships for Galliford Try North West