And so, strategic housing finds a place in the blog……
As I sit at my desk with my morning tea and a bowl of Cheerios, I am able to reflect on the Northern Housing Conference I was speaking at yesterday. I did a joint session with Hull on lessons learned from our programme to date. I think the sessions went well (we weren’t pelted with anything) but I was struck by an oddity. I was totally prepared for the barrage of questions about how local authorities are expected to deliver anything during the ‘credit crunch’ and yet, these questions didn’t come. We were asked about LGR, how to engage members, how to deal with the private stock and then right at the end, a small question about the credit crunch. Odd? I wonder.
Speaking to a number of colleagues at the event we all shared similar thoughts. This ‘credit crunch’ present local authorities with an opportunity; a bit of breathing space. So, building is slowing but surely then this is a time to put your energies into making sure that the other strategic housing ‘tools’ (private rented sector, homelessness, advice, allocations, empty home etc) are as good as they possibly can be? Is this a time for planners to work quickly, without the diversion of major planning applications, to deliver the LDF? Is this a time to make friends with those smaller housebuilders, the ones who don’t need 25% margin and who are still investing? Is now the time to take a step back and consolidate?
Cheerios finished (seriously, are these things good for you?), a serious thought comes to mind. Will the slowing of the major housebuilders (you know, the ones who control EVERYTHING!) allow a new and more community-focused era of developers. Those guys that are in it for the long haul. The Investor/developers? These guys are often the landowner, (by acquisition) developer and community manager. They could be a public body, charity or other long term player (eg, Housing Associations, Bourneville, Grosvenor Estates, Grainger). In it for the long term, with patient money asking for decent return (but not the 25% perhaps). They protect their assets and crucially have a long-term relationship with the community.
This sentiment echoes those expressed by a number of both central and local government folk at the CIH conference 3 weeks ago. The matra of ‘the public sector’s time to shine’….. Time to get our house in order as well as preparing for when the market turns and we can step it up a gear in terms of deilvering these 240000 new homes a year?