You want my vote? Step up to the plate

As a housing association chief executive what do you do if you have put together a genuinely new partnership which stacks up financially and which you are looking to replicate?

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I will tell you what we used to do – keep schtum! There would have been no way we would have wanted other local housing associations finding out the details of our deal. This is commercial. We would have had a prime mover advantage here.

But not any more, and not in the Sheffield City Region.

South Yorkshire Housing Association has come together with all active local associations, the ALMOs, the local authority and the Local Enterprise Partnership’s Housing Executive Board to sign up to a Housing Compact, which effectively requires us to put the greater good in front of our own organisational self-interest.

As a result we have now arranged a seminar and invited our partners in the Compact to come along and find out what we have done.

What I love about this collaboration is how it has snowballed from relatively humble beginnings just over a year ago.

We invited Shelter’s Chief Executive, Campbell Robb, to chair a seminar in January 2016 when we looked at the potential impact on people in housing poverty of the Housing and Planning Act and the need to treble housing supply locally to support the Economic Growth Plan.

Everyone at the seminar agreed on one thing – we should come together to change the way we work, explore the barriers to effective housing delivery and ensure we continue to focus on homeless people and those with no other choices in the housing market.

One of the immediate results has been the production of a prospectus – More New Homes.  Six months after we pitched it to the HCA it has now evolved and is about far more than just sub-market housing.  It is, in essence, a statement of intent to (pinching the Government’s words) fix the broken housing market in the Sheffield City Region.  More and more people have got involved; associations, house builders and funders from outside the City Region are now showing an interest in coming here to work.  In short – we are onto something. This is genuine system leadership

The political leaders have been right behind us from the start.  Doncaster’s Mayor, Ros Jones, spoke at the inaugural seminar and Councillor Simon Greaves, the Chair of the Housing Executive Board, has been fully supportive throughout.

There is still, of course, loads to be done.

We want to ensure that the Sheffield City Region acts as a magnet for anyone interested in developing new homes.  To achieve this we must, for example, ensure that our planning processes level up to the standards of the best councils locally, that we get the word out for our ambitious land disposals programme and that we continue to build on the links with other public landowners such as the NHS and the Police.

Oh … and then there’s the green belt issue. Much of the green belt locally is pretty scrubby. We want to use the flexibility that the White Paper offers to think about how some of the boundaries should be redrawn.

This will take real leadership and courage.  You want my vote?  Step up to the plate.

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