Housing reforms and major project delivery

Last week saw the final Major Projects Delivery Group session of 2010. Hosted by SNR Denton, the session focussed on the potential impact of the Coalition Government’s new housing reforms on the delivery of major projects across London. Representatives from a range of London Boroughs, including Barnet, Barking, Camden and Waltham Forest, as well as colleagues from HCA and TfL joined us to hear from Mike Hows, Assistant Director of Regeneration at LB Greenwich on how his team are planning to adapt to the new policy landscape.

The concensus emerging from the session was that while many projects currently underway or about to start are likely to be unaffected by recent changes, the removal of Government grant to support schemes will start to have a serious impact further down the pipeline, from c.2012 onwards.  As a result of this, there may even be a case for conducting a full scale review of regeneration aspirations over the medium term for particular areas, with previous assumptions and targets no longer being sensible to aim for.

In particular, major challenges exist surrounding the definition and funding of affordable homes in London, particularly at a time when local authority skills and capacity will be under increasing strain due to wider and related budget cuts. Clearly, new models of financing and delivery are required, and and while new revenue streams for local authorities like the New Homes Bonus, and financing mechanisms such as Tax Increment Financing may help, the group acknowledged that neither would fill the gap entirely.

It is ultimately early days in relation to local authorities formulating a coherent and effective response to the changes announced by the Government in late October, and with more policy detail to emerge in the Government’s localism and economic development bills expected over the next six months, it may be some time before we have absolute clarity with regards the hands that local authorities will have to play. What this session demonstrated very clearly is that local authorities cannot afford to wait – they must be proactive in determining how they plan to continue to facilitate the provision of homes in their locality, and seek to build partnerships and exchange knowledge across the public and private sector  to assist in this process.

For more information, Mike’s presentation giving an overview of regeneration in Greenwich can be downloaded here, while Anita Rivera’s Policy Focus paper exploring housing delivery issues can be downloaded here.

You can also watch from David Lunts and Richard Blakeway discussing housing prospects in London at the Future of London Conference 2010 here.