Can collaboration help deliver the housing London needs?

Panel: Can collaboration deliver?

Leaders across London have been working together for years to explore new ways to deliver more housing. But with resources, skills and funding now in such short supply, the housing crisis is becoming critical. This session looked at the ways in which London boroughs can collaborate to tackle the crisis head on, as well as the role of the private sector as a key partner.

Speakers

  • Fiona Fletcher-Smith, Chief Executive, L&Q
  • Tricia Patel, Partner, Pollard Thomas Edwards Architects
  • Michael Scorer, Strategic Director of Housing and Modernisation, LB Southwark
  • Cath Shaw, Deputy Chief Executive, LB Barnet
  • Andrew Travers, Director and Lead of the Agile Investments Mission, Inner Circle Consulting (chair)

Talent, culture and behaviours

Over 8 million people in Britain are inadequately housed. This doesn’t just mean they’re homeless. This could mean they’re in a home they can’t afford, in a home that’s not suitable for their mobility requirements or is in a state of significant disrepair.

That’s why Fiona from L&Q changed the housing association’s direction in the last 18 months to focus on the homes they already have.

She is putting forward an investment programme of £2.9 billion to make sure existing homes reach Future Home Standards and Energy Performance Certificate C targets. The very top priority is, that they are safe.

With two-thirds of L&Q’s homes delivered through joint ventures, Fiona shared some key tips for housing associations working in partnerships:

  • Understand the place you’re working in and do not neglect your local authority.
  • Be very clear what the roles and responsibilities are from the beginning. L&Q spend a lot of time setting out their own red lines as an organisation.
  • It is important teams understand what a joint venture is and that they are there to represent the venture, not your own organisation.

“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, L&Q

Finance risk and procurement

LB Barnet work through a variety of partnerships from traditional development agreements to joint ventures. One of these joint ventures is Brent Cross Town, which the Council are delivering with Argent. The collaboration will deliver 6,800 homes with 3 million square foot of office space.

Cath explained that through this partnership, Barnet have learnt a lot about procurement, but also “how to arrive into a partnership.”

She shared some nuggets of wisdom for public sector partners:

  • “Arrive into the partnership with confidence to know what your bring into that partnership.” The public sector can bring access to lower cost capital, but also a long-term perspective.
  • Be clear on what you offer. And use the procurement process to ask for what you want. The biggest alarm bell in procurement processes is potential project partners coming back and saying, ‘you’ve asked the wrong question’.
  • Set out upfront your risk appetites, your hurdle rates, the things that you will and won’t do in advance. This allows for more agility when a market challenge comes along because you’ve got a much clearer idea of your space for manoeuvre.

“We’re interested in what the place looks like in 10, 20, 40, 100 years’ time, which does change our behaviour and does mean that we take a different perspective on risk.”

Cath Shaw, LB Barnet

Local politics and policy frameworks

Local authorities have big investment needs to deliver essential affordable housing and bring existing homes up to safe and sustainable standards.

Like other boroughs, LB Southwark is grappling with the balance between what they invest in new stock and how much they can spend on new homes.

Michael explained that the bill for new stock is going to cost the Borough approximately £2.9 billion over the net 10 years. This will increase as they focus on more requirements around building safety and meeting environmental standards.

All of this “requires capacity that we don’t have, and skills that are in short supply across the whole of the sector,” said Michael.

Thinking about collaboration for delivery of affordable housing in a context of local politics and policy frameworks, Michael touched on collaboration with local, regional and central government with the following insights:

  • Make the point to government that having more council housing means housing benefits savings by taking people out of high cost private rented and costly temporary accommodation.
  • Ward councillors are brilliant community representatives and know what’s going on. They reflect clearly on what the interests are of their local communities.
  • Tease out competing priorities with political representatives and help them to marry up various parts of the ecosystem.

Collaborating with communities

Trisha shared ways Pollard Thomas Edwards architects and partners are working together to help understand the social value of what we are doing when it comes to delivering housing.

Social value “promotes a well-established but sometimes neglected principle of estate regeneration.” It is an important tool to promote a sense of belonging, health, educational opportunities and economic security. But it has tended to lose out in importance to the challenges of viability and housing numbers because they’re more easily quantified.

PTE and partners have laid out new approaches to evaluating social value in estate regeneration in their Altered Estates 2 report.

Now they are partnering with the University of Reading to research social value. This will provide valuable data to inform design decision and promote best practice.

Key insights to better implement social value design:

  • Establishing a social value brief that is tailored to local needs at the start of a project
  • You can manage what you measure. Set out how social value targets that are quantifiable
  • We do need more data and for that, we need to overcome reluctance to ask questions for fear of encouraging complaints.

This session was supported by


Affordable Housing: Overcoming crisis through collaboration is a cross-sector research and events programme that aims to make practical recommendations.

Contact Anna Odedun, Head of Knowledge, to get involved. Thanks to project sponsors Countryside, Montagu Evans, Pollard Thomas Edwards, Potter Raper and Trowers and Hamlins, and our conference sponsors Altair, Inner Circle Consulting and Big Society Capital.