Affordable Housing: Overcoming crisis through collaboration

Young woman walking on a pedestrian path alongside some modern housing, with trees on the other wise.
Image: Pollard Thomas Edwards

Fewer new tenants are housed in council or housing association homes, while rents in the private rented sector continue to spiral. In our new affordable housing report, we identify collaboration in finance, community involvement and retrofit as ways out of the crisis

As we launched our affordable housing project in April 2022, the landscape was increasingly complex: high construction costs; a shortage of skilled workers; an urgent need to retrofit homes, and new building safety regulations.

All of this remains true today, but over the 12-month lifespan of this project we saw additional challenges added to this picture. This includes the cost-of-living crisis that is affecting many across the UK, and the fact that on top of a shortage of affordable housing many existing homes are unsafe and unhealthy.

“The affordable housing crisis is not capable of being solved by any one organisation on its own. We need our collective imaginations brought together through collaborative system-level leadership.”

Joanne Drew, co-chair of the London Housing Directors’ Group

Over the last year, we focused on working together to tackle these challenges and this report makes the case for more, and better, cross-sector collaboration. Our report, Affordable Housing: Overcoming crisis through collaboration, outlines key recommendations for those working in the sector, alongside innovative examples of how to collaborate in practice.

Lettings to new social tenants in London

Key messages from the report

The report focuses on three areas for collaboration: collaborative finance; retrofit and making the most of existing stock, and collaborating with communities.

Collaborative finance models

Our work has highlighted the need for innovative, and collaborative, finance models. We recommend that practitioners:

  • Use frameworks like the Equity Impact Project that will ensure investment into affordable housing has real impact.
  • Consider alternative models like community land trusts.
  • Learn from other markets facing analogous challenges, eg the Family Homes Funds in Nigeria.

“80% of the homes that will exist in 2050 have already been built.”

Making the most of the homes we’ve already got

An estimated 80% of the homes that will exist in 2050 have already been built, so it is vital the sector pools resources and thinks about how to leverage what we already have. There are several ways the sector can achieve this:

  • Use innovative, collaborative thinking to make existing stock a strategic priority – with resources to match.
  • Use demonstrator projects, like the Eco Show Home in LB Waltham Forest, to drive retrofit.
  • Use new technology and a more holistic approach to housing allocations to maximise the number of people offered a new home.

Collaborating with communities

As a sector we need to continually develop our approaches and ways of working with communities. To achieve this, our report recommends the sector:

  • Collaborates with local communities in the definition, design and delivery of affordable housing development.
  • Takes a ‘systems approach’ to housing to drive change across sustainability, employment, health and wellbeing, and community cohesion.

Looking ahead to Housing 2030

The government hopes to achieve its levelling up ambitions by 2030. The report presents three thought leadership articles from sector experts on why affordable housing should be at the heart of this agenda.

Housing as a human right
In “Levelling up housing”, Lucy Webb of Inner Circle Consulting argues that the housing crisis is a human rights issue, exacerbated by cost of living crises and underinvestment in affordable homes. That’s why working with communities to identify those most vulnerable is key.

“Government must get over its short-term thinking on housing and support housing ministers with muscle to tackle the issue in a sustained, co-ordinated manner, across both the levelling up and housing briefs,” she says.

Young woman in a blue coat with braids in her hair and a big smile.
Centre for Homelessness Impact

Tackling youth homelessness
Young people are experiencing the worst of the housing crisis, says Dr Tom Kerridge of Centrepoint. The rate of youth homeless has increased in London by 20% in a year to 2022 but funding to support this homeless group has not gone up in line with demand.

“Government, housing providers and charities must develop strategies aimed at providing genuinely affordable housing options for young people and enabling those living in housing to make the most of tenancies,” he says.

Affordability housing requires clear, flexible policy
Uncertainty on planning policy such as the new infrastructure levy is holding back investment in affordable housing, says Will Seamer of Montagu Evans.

“We need flexibility on delivery structures,” he adds. “Public-private partnerships are going to be key, particularly with regards to levelling the playing field for local authorities and housing associations.”

Download the report

Download the report

About the affordable housing programme

During 2022 we held several formative events to gather case studies and insights, including our annual conference with over 40 speakers.

Conference topics included cultures of collaborations; partnership models, and learning from Lagos.

Read write-ups of every conference session with speakers slides and video here.

More ideas and insights from the programme

Tackling the affordable housing crisis
Read the news story here

Affordable housing programme launch
Read the write-up and watch the video

Retrofit and regeneration field trip to Waltham Forest
the write-up

Proposals for London
Our future leaders pitch innovative ideas for solving the affordable housing crisis. Watch here

Watch Lyn Garner, chief executive of the London Legacy Development Corporation and Future of London chair, on public sector collaboration

Over a 60-year period in London, savings in housing benefit spent are expected to exceed the grant funding needed to deliver new homes for social rent.

National Audit Office analysis

“You’ve got to understand and work with the grain of that place, and the very centre of any place is the local authority.”

Fiona Fletcher-Smith, CEO, L&Q

Download the report

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Thanks to all our sponsors of the affordable housing programme
Countryside Partnerships, Montagu Evans, Pollard Thomas Edward, Potter Raper and Trowers & Hamlins

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