Resident ballots major opportunity for housing associations

A couple of months ago the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan proudly announced that major estate regeneration schemes involving any demolition of social homes must have the backing of existing residents before they can receive City Hall funding.

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Resident ballots for estate regeneration was announced first by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and then endorsed by the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan late last year.

At the time there was a flurry of excitement over the plan as the problems of the Lendlease agreement with Haringey Council loomed large, as local politicians from across the political divide expressed they have long felt democratising planning for residents was long overdue.

We know many developers are concerned that the prospect of ballots for demolitions of social homes could supercharge the NIMBY brigade.

Sir Steve Bullock, former Mayor of Lewisham wrote recently that ballots could favour those that put up a fight and shout the loudest.

Despite this, there is universal agreement that greater engagement is needed, especially for developments that are truly transformative for communities. The Mayor of London, revealed his consultation for ballots had 88% approval rating, which is huge.

For developers such as housing associations these proposals are a real opportunity to answer critics who say they have lost their social purpose, as they can demonstrably show what a positive impact their work will bring to communities.

Developers involved in major estate regeneration schemes should not be concerned, but they should put more resources into ensuring every public consultation does more than simply tick the boxes.

Traditionally retailers have been viewed as having gone the extra mile for large scale regeneration schemes, and developers could learn a thing or two from them on how to bring a community with you.

It’s not hyperbole to suggest this is the start of a real shake up in local communications and stakeholder engagement and does really bring to life planning applications to those that have traditionally felt disenfranchised.

One of the potential unintended consequences of this policy is a large platform for local activists to cut their teeth has been created.

It’s perfectly conceivable that in 10 years’ time we will see many MPs in Westminster that first came to prominence during a major regeneration scheme.

Moreover, developers thinking about locations outside of London for future developments should take note; it is highly likely that Mayoralties up and down the country will be watching London to see if this approach is successful so they themselves can adopt similar polices.

For the more enlightened developer this is a golden opportunity to differentiate yourself from the crowd with clever communication strategies.

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