Collaboration is key to tackling London’s affordable housing crisis – new report

Mother holding daughter who is under 5 years old in a park in London
Photo: Aaron Chown/PA Wire/Centre for Homelessness Impact

Working together can be hard if public and private sector partners have different objectives. Our report looks at new models of collaboration in funding, retrofit and community involvement.

Collaboration between stakeholders including London boroughs, housing associations and for-profit investors is the key to tackling the capital’s housing crisis. This is the headline conclusion of our new report following a year-long project on ways to tackle the affordable housing crisis.

“The affordable housing crisis is systemic in London,” said Joanne Drew, co-chair of the London Housing Directors’ Group. “It’s not capable of being solved by any one organisation working on its own… We need our collective imaginations and firepower brought together through collaborative system-level leadership.

In response to this ongoing crisis, Future of London hosted a series of events during 2022, including our annual conference so public, private and voluntary practitioners could consider ways to increase access to affordable homes.

Public-private partnerships need a shared vision

The strong consensus was that improving cross-sector collaboration was needed to increase delivery of new affordable homes. Public, private and voluntary sector partners must develop a shared vision, even when organisational objectives may be different.

“Make sure teams understand what a joint venture is and that they are there to represent the venture, not your own organisation.”

Fiona Fletcher-Smith, L&Q.

“Collaboration alone won’t solve the affordable housing crisis, but it is a key tool,” says report author Anna Odedun, Head of Knowledge at Future of London.

“There are several barriers to successful cross-sector collaborations, including a lack of shared vision and an imbalance of resources. There is also a reluctance to share with the wider sector when things haven’t gone so well so we can all learn.”

The report, Affordable Housing: Overcoming crisis through collaboration, also argues that making more efficient use of existing housing stock is vital to tackling homelessness in London. The report highlights the way two London boroughs, Camden and Waltham Forest, have addressed retrofit, and L&Q’s £2.9bn investment to improve health and safety of its existing stock. 

Using case studies of innovative housing solutions and advice from senior practitioners, the final report shows there are innovative ways to close the gap between housing supply and demand.

Image: Pollard Thomas Edwards

Understanding roles in public-private partnerships

Several practitioners we spoke to said that understanding the importance of profitability is crucial to successful collaboration in public-private partnerships.

“It’s especially important for the public sector to have a better commercial understanding of the private sector partner’s objectives and facilitate effective negotiations,” says Catherine Raynsford, a director of The Hyde Group.

At the same time, local authorities should be confident that they bring something important to the table.

“The public sector not only brings access to lower cost capital, but also a long-term perspective.”

Cath Shaw, LB Barnet

Innovative funding models are required, such as Big Society Capital’s equity impact project that offers a standardised approach to measuring the social impact of investment.

Collaborating with communities

Successful development also requires collaboration with communities who have a direct stake in housing development.

“We should be working in a way which recognises that residents’ lived experiences are critical to developing the housing that people want and need,” said Kyle Buchanan, a director of built environment consultancy Archio, which specialises in co-produced regeneration projects.

The report highlights community engagement on the redevelopment of the Lancaster West Estate, following the Grenfell Tower tragedy. The Lancaster West Neighbourhood Team (LWNT) was established in partnership with residents to work specifically with those survivors living on the estate.

Affordable Housing: Overcoming crisis through collaboration focuses on three areas for collaboration:

  • collaborative finance
  • making the most of existing stock
  • collaborating with communities.

Find out more and download the report here.

Thanks to all our sponsors of the affordable housing programme:
Countryside PartnershipsMontagu EvansPollard Thomas EdwardPotter Raper and Trowers & Hamlins

Thanks also to the sponsors of our conference on affordable housing in October 2022:
AltairBig Society Capital and Inner Circle Consulting.