Councils and housing associations urged to collaborate over new homes

Seminar hears sector should ‘grow up’ over the potential for turf conflict between associations and council housing companies.

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The sector needs go ‘grown up’ over the potential for turf conflicts between housing associations and council housing companies, a seminar heard.

Talk should, the seminar heard, turn to prospects for collaboration between both on a new generation of social housing.

The SDS hosted seminar – specifically for councils – collated emerging evidence of what it takes to get councils building homes again – and how.

Key sector speakers explored issues including local housing companies, HRA new build, use of Right to Buy receipts, and shared ownership.

The latter, the seminar heard, offered council housing companies an advantage over associations in allowing local buy stipulations – as associations became “increasingly corporate and expansionist”.

Associations, in turn, claimed councils had the “wrong culture” for shared ownership, the seminar heard.

Consultant Greg Warner-Harris said shared ownership terms offered by council housing companies should be as close as possible to buying on the open market.

The future, he said, could see council housing companies sub-contracting shared ownership products to associations.

Fifty-eight council housing companies have been set up since 2012 – 41 within the past two years and 30 over 2017.

The seminar heard those numbers had to be set against development time-frames before realistic assessment could be made of delivery.

Much now depended on the government’s response to the growth of council housing companies as to how far and fast such companies could grow.

And there was, the seminar heard, simmering government concern at risks associated with council investment and impact on housing delivery.

If councils were, as the seminar heard, the new housing associations, they had to beware the ‘false promise’ of HRA self-funding if considering a housing company and not set a company because “everyone else was doing it”.

A pitch specifically made with smaller councils in mind.

Also explored were the need for specialist recruitment to housing companies, assessment of legalities, political imperatives such as keeping scrutiny committees on side and the part modular build could play in delivering a new generation of social housing.

As reported by 24housing, the seminar was set against the budget announcement of £1bn added borrowing for HRA new build in high demand areas, and a newly released report on investment in the Private Rented Sector (PRS) that opened channels for councils, developers and investors to work alongside each other on next generation of private rented housing.

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