October 16 found Future of London at City Hall, launching a three-year programme of support to boost the capacity of boroughs building their own homes. The buzz in the room was palpable as delegates welcomed plans for monthly seminars, workshops and site visits with expert advisers and pioneering councils, providing free technical advice and best practice to boost local authority teams.
The Council-Led Housing Forum will establish a network designed to support practitioners’ peer-learning and open innovation – working collaboratively with the GLA and each other.
Nicola Mathers, Deputy CEO, Future of London outlined the need for the programme:
“Against a backdrop of severe skills shortages in this sector the Council-led Housing Forum will provide a much-needed boost for teams, equipping them to deliver efficiently and effectively, avoid past mistakes, gain from peer and cross-team support and benefit from the promotion of housing delivery progress, successes and outcomes to the sector.”
James Murray, Deputy Mayor for Housing and Residential Development made it clear that “councils have a vital part to play” in tackling the housing crisis, a top priority for the Mayor.
In May, Sadiq Khan announced his Building Council Homes for Londoners scheme, pledging to support councils to start 10,000 new council homes over the next four years using part of the funds from the record £1.67bn he secured from government for homebuilding in the capital.
However, money is not the only constraint preventing councils from doing more. “It’s not enough to just provide money,” said Murray. “Councils need support to build up the skills and expertise to deliver their ambitious targets and go even further in the future. The new Forum will allow boroughs to share best practice, new ideas and learning, helping them all to deliver the council homes that Londoners so desperately need.”
Nicola Tilbury, Partner at Potter Raper Partnership underlines this point: “Fundamental to good development is having an “informed client”, the new Forum will allow best practice and lessons learnt to be shared between Boroughs, which can only be good for the delivery of housing across the capital. The impact Future of London have in making this happen is just one of the reasons we are so pleased to be involved with the programme.”
Danny Sutcliffe, Partner at Red Loft, works closely with local authorities: “Red Loft are really proud to be sponsors of this initiative. We recognise that if the government’s 300,000 homes a year target is to be reached, local authorities will have a vital role to play in building new homes for all tenures. We’ve worked with a number of LAs, ALMOs and LHCs since 2002, helping them to establish and deliver their programmes, to upskill and mentor their teams and latterly to help them shape their home ownership delivery programmes. We are excited to continue this support in partnership with Future for London.”
The launch was followed on 19 October by the Mayor’s announcement of a new Homebuilding Capacity Fund, which will allow councils to bid for up to £750,000 each to boost their housing and planning teams. Bids could include hiring new staff to lead council homebuilding projects and develop new masterplans.
Nicola Mathers said: “The combination of Future of London’s Council-led Housing Forum, bringing local authorities together to share knowledge, the Mayor’s Homebuilding Capacity Fund to grow individual borough teams and the removal of the borrowing cap creates a huge opportunity to boost housing delivery. Following years of cuts, this is the catalyst to enable councils to realise their ambition.”
Writing for Inside Housing, Mathers added: “the forum aims to save time by sharing lessons learned and building an effective, capable local authority network across the capital. If the feedback received at the launch is anything to go by, there is a real appetite from the boroughs and housing associations to share and learn from one another.”
The Council-led Housing Forum programme will start in November, sessions will be listed on our events page. To be notified and hear about other FoL events and updates, please subscribe to our mailing list.