Blog by Suzanne Benson, Trowers & Hamlin
With the election of the Mayor in May and an increased focus, at both a national and local level, on housing and homelessness in the city, policy makers and providers are looking closely as ways to accelerate and increase both new build housing delivery and regeneration projects.
Housing is a complex issue and cannot be solved by any one policy statement. We are currently awaiting the outcome of the response to the Government White Paper – aptly called ‘Fixing our Broken Housing Market’ – and in the last week have seen the announcement of a new Green Paper to focus on the requirements of Social Housing – prompted in the wake of the Grenfell fire. The collated responses to both are expected to be published early in the New Year.
One area that is the subject a renewed focus is how the public and private sectors can work together in partnership to deliver housing and related community assets. In recent years a lot of the discussion has focused on the release of public land to stimulate more delivery. This continues to be a significant factor but the discussion has widened to also consider the use of local authority investment powers and the creation of long term income streams for the public sector.
At Trowers & Hamlins we have commissioned a research project to encourage a wider debate on public/private sector joint working focusing on housing delivery partnerships. This involved a series of round table discussions and research interviews with participants in successful partnering projects – from all parts of the sector - to assess what worked well and what they would look to change in the future. The full report will be released at MIPIM UK in October – in advance of that I have set out some of the main themes below.
Compatibility: As with starting any new relationship, compatibility is king - the key themes that emerged focused on the importance of early engagement both in choosing the right type of partnership and establishing that the parties share similar values and objectives. Alignment of both appetite for and exposure to risk is seen as equally important.
The finish line: Some respondents, particularly on the investor side, emphasised the importance of starting with the end product and working backwards. Understanding what the offer to the market is going to be – where is the focus in terms of price point, tenure, demographic and location.
Flexibility: The most consistent message from all sectors was the importance of flexibility in approach. This is where a delivery partnership can diverge from a straight development agreement. It is vital for the parties to have agreed objectives at the outset but equally important is the ability to work together to deal with changes in the wider economic environment as well as the local market. A clear plan is important combined with recognition from all parties that there are circumstances which may trigger the need look afresh at approach – this can particularly be a challenge in procurement terms.
Every project will differ in the detail but getting the basics right will go a long way to ensuring the long term goal of increased housing provision is delivered.