Housing peer challenge: themes to underpin the peer challenge

1. Understanding of the local place and priority setting:  does the council understand its local housing context and place and use that to inform a clear housing vision and set of priorities?

  • Is there an up to date strategic housing market assessment (SHMA) for the area?
  • How well developed are arrangements to gather additional data and intelligence to supplement the SHMA to provide a deeper understanding of the housing market and housing need? 
  • Is there a housing strategy and, if so, does it cross reference with the corporate plan, local plan, the SHMA and partners’ priorities?
  • How effectively does the council use and combine its housing and related powers (such as planning, asset management, health, education, economic growth etc.) in place-making?
  • What are the blockages to housing delivery?  How well are these understood and how is the council intervening to address them?
  • Does the council have a private sector leasing scheme in place and, if so, how effective is this in meeting demand?
  • How is the council prepared for a rising demand from those to whom it owes a statutory duty to house?
  • Is there a tenancy strategy in place? If so, how well is this understood by external partners such as housing associations?  How effective is it in influencing policy, practice and better use of existing stock to meet prevailing needs?
  • How does the council demonstrate achievement of key priority outcomes and the beneficial impact arising from its housing service?

2. Leadership of Place:  does the council provide effective leadership of housing place through its elected members, officers and constructive relationships and partnerships with external stakeholders?

  • Is the housing vision/housing strategy led by management team and cabinet members?
  • How well do backbencher members understand and commit to the council’s housing vision?
  • To what extent does the council use its influence in other areas, for example on transport, infrastructure, co-investment etc. to unblock barriers to housing?
  • How are the specific needs of vulnerable people taken into account in the housing strategy?  What are the arrangements for the provision of housing for older people, meeting disability needs, mental illness and other vulnerable sectors specific to the area?  How does the council work with principal partners to provide joined-up and personalised services for vulnerable people?
  • How well understood is the level of homelessness?  Does the council have an up-to-date homelessness strategy (including a temporary accommodation plan)?  Does this include provision for coping with street homelessness/reducing rough sleeping?  How effective are these measures?
  • How well does the council both understand and influence the priorities of relevant partner agencies? This could include the county council, largest social landlords, clinical commissioning group (CCG), probation service etc.
  • What evidence is there that housing delivery is meeting local priorities?

3. Financial planning and viability:  does the council have a financial plan in place to ensure long term housing viability and is there evidence that it is being implemented successfully?

  • Does the council have a clear understanding of its financial resources available to support housing delivery?  (This will differ for Housing Revenue Account (HRA) councils with housing stock and non-HRA councils.) 
  • How effectively does the council use financial instruments, for example S106, community infrastructure levy (CIL), HRA business plan ‘headroom’, new homes bonus (NHB) etc. to creatively support housing delivery?
  • How effectively does the council combine asset management, the use of public land and the five year housing land supply to facilitate partnership discussions with developers and housing associations to deliver housing?  How effective is this in maximising housing delivery? 
  • Is there a council strategy for income generation/commercialisation?  If so does this link across to the council’s housing strategy?
  • Is there a well-developed commercial understanding of housing opportunities for income generation linked to an understanding of the housing market and need?  Is this being converted into practice?
  • Is the council building or considering the building of housing?  If so is this by itself or in partnership and what type/tenure of housing?  How detailed is the: market analysis; risk assessment and understanding of need to support the council’s decision?  Are the outcomes from such activity specified?  If in delivery mode, are these outcomes being achieved?

4. Organisational leadership and governance:  is there effective political and managerial council leadership supported by good governance and decision-making arrangements that respond to key housing development challenges and enable change and transformation to be implemented?

  • Is there a designated housing portfolio holder and/or housing champion to assume the member lead on housing matters?
  • Are the links between the leadership/governance of housing strategy and operations/delivery appropriate and effective?
  • Are decision-making arrangements effective, appropriate and happening in the right places?
  • Is performance on housing objectives being measured to assure the council and partners on delivery progress?  What mechanisms are in place to address under-performance?
  • Do the council’s structural working arrangements promote cross-service working across housing, planning, economic growth, asset management, commercialisation, health, education etc?
  • What is the council’s understanding of innovation in the field of housing and its possible local application?
  • Is there evidence that scrutiny arrangements understand the importance of housing to the achievement of the council’s wider objectives?  Has scrutiny been used to support housing delivery and improvement?

5. Capacity to deliver:  is organisational capacity aligned with priorities and does the council influence, enable and leverage external capacity to focus on agreed outcomes?

  • To what extent is the council’s housing vision and strategy developed and delivered in association with its principal partners: developers, housing associations, private sector landlords and neighbouring local authorities?  Are joint delivery arrangements well established with partners?
  • How effectively does the council engage with principal stakeholders, for example:  housing associations, health, education and social care; the Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) etc., to develop and implement its housing strategy?
  • How effective are these partnership working arrangements?
  • Is the council working to devise and implement new models of housing delivery with partners?
  • How effective are the working relationships with major developers and agents locally to work together to increase supply by acting on market intelligence.  For example by:  reducing/amending planning conditions; simplifying s106, 278 and CIL issues; financial support to facilitate delivery; lending to bring forward infrastructure; site or plot acquisition to aid tenure mix and agreements on speed of delivery.
  • How well developed and effective are the council’s arrangements for working with partners to consider land release and site assembly?
  • Is the need/high cost of infrastructure a barrier to housing delivery?  If so what plans are in place to address this?
  • Are there partnership protocols in place that set out a shared commitment to housing priorities and joint working to deliver on these?