The councils comprising the North London Housing Partnership wished to understand each other’s approaches to local housing company structures specifically, and new housing delivery generally.
Although all are pro-growth and pro-development, the six member organisations have adopted a range of different approaches to housing delivery and wished to pull together an analysis of those approaches along with any lessons learned so each could learn from the experience of others.
In addition, we developed a ‘toolkit’ for the North London Housing Partnership (NLHP) to cover all the key lines of enquiry that must be considered prior to selecting a housing delivery route.
This project specifically focuses on providing an assessment into the effectiveness of the different housing company structures – either already in place or are currently under discussion across the NLHP authorities. An initial review was completed in late 2017 to benchmark the type of models being brought forward; their primary focus; delivery targets; and future plans. Following this review, it was agreed that a more detailed examination – commissioned as a group of authorities - would be an invaluable tool in terms of identifying best practice and cross-learning. The opportunity to work with an independent adviser appointed under the LGA’s programme would enable the authorities to not only undertake this assessment, but to also extend this to provide bespoke technical support and advice on delivery where appropriate.
The NLHP was looking for a comprehensive toolkit that would be shared between the six authorities and which would cover the rationale behind setting up types of vehicles; the processes involved, the governance arrangements, funding mechanisms, delivery to date, areas of good practice, lessons learnt etc.
Part A of our report includes:
- Details on the context of housing companies in the wider social housing sector
- An analysis of the impact of the recent removal of the HRA debt cap
- A description of each member of the NLHP’s current approach to housing delivery, highlighting the successes and challenges of the different approaches that have been adopted
In Part B, we include the toolkit section which covers all the key lines of enquiry that ought to be considered by NLHP members as they decide upon or review their existing approaches to housing delivery.
- The full range of delivery structures available to a local authority and their respective features and benefits
- A proposed methodology for carrying out a strategic options appraisal into different delivery approaches
- The rationale behind setting up different types of vehicles
- The barriers to successful delivery and how to overcome them, including:
- Attracting and retaining the right talent
- The planning system
- Governance processes
- Using right to buy receipts
- Business planning
- Case studies which demonstrate how different models of housing delivery vehicles have been implemented by different local authorities. The case studies include examples of wholly owned companies, direct delivery, multi authority, JV and lease back arrangements and the associated aims and objectives of the organisations in using their chosen model.
The impact (including cost savings/income generated if applicable)
- The assignment as originally conceived was focused heavily upon local housing companies and therefore, most of the content was predicated on a LHC being the likely delivery vehicle. However for a number of reasons, most notably the removal of the HRA debt cap, the six NHLP boroughs are primarily (but not exclusively) focused now on in-house, direct delivery.
- Although much of the content and advice within our report will still be of use to local authorities developing in house, the impact of the project is not as significant as it would have been if local housing companies had been considered the primary delivery route.
That different local authorities in close proximity with seemingly comparable housing challenges can adopt a wide range of approaches to housing delivery due to different politics, corporate priorities, demographics, land availability, market conditions, amongst other factors.
That the huge interest in local housing companies as a delivery vehicle is now likely to wane somewhat for those councils that have retained a housing revenue account due to the lifting of the HRA debt cap.
Local housing companies will however remain an important option for NLHP members as part of a mixed economy of delivery routes to supplement in house delivery.