Homes England: ‘We’ve got funding’ for council housing

At Housing 2019, Homes England calls on councils to say “show us the money.”

Homes England has told councils: “We have funding to get homes built.”

Speaking at the Housing 2019 in Manchester, Danielle Gillespie, Homes England general manager for the North, said: “Whether that it funding for Shared Ownership, social rent or affordable rent or if it is funding for brownfield land, we have it.”

She said Homes England were keen to get more councils on board, pointing toward their successes already with housing associations.

Councils authorities have seen some favourable developments in the past year, with the lifting of the HRA cap offering an opportunity to build new homes.

Earlier today, 24housing reported on a new survey showing council housebuilding at its highest level since 1990.

Stephen Teagle, CEO of Galliford Try Partnerships, told Housing 2019 it was “inconceivable” that the country could see 300,000 homes per year without local authorities building.

He added that, while progress was slow, there were signs councils were getting to grips with their growing role.

“We are already seeing local authorities buying section 106 homes and joining joint ventures,” he said.

Simon Barnard, of GL Hearn, added that local authorities could build on this by using their land holdings more efficiently.

He urged councils not to “be resigned to the constrictions that you had previously”.

One of the best-practice cases was put forward by Gateshead council, which appeared on the panel represented by CEO Sheena Ramsey.

She said that, while progress was being made, there was still a need to highlight the challenges.

Ramsey mentioned Right To Buy and skills restrictions before taking on older stock, saying: “There is lots of old stock that is not fit for purpose and tower blocks that people no longer want to live in.”

After the presentations, delegates quizzed the panel on their thoughts, with the skills gap being a particular concern to those in the room.

Teagle said that joint ventures can help with this by “tapping into” other developers skills.

Ramsey added that her team are looking at apprenticeships to plug their gap but that “we need to make the sector can attractive option for young people”.

The session ended with a warning from Teagle: “Now the freedoms have been given to local authorities, it will not be long before government starts looking at delivery progress.”

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