Council Housing Development Programme - Derbyshire Dales District Council

Altair provided strategic support to the council through the development of a business case for the council to help meet one of its key corporate objectives – to identify and deliver new affordable housing sites and improve housing for vulnerable people – through the direct delivery of new council homes on available council land and through pursuing section 106 opportunities.

The initial proposal was for the council to identify, develop and own 50 council homes for affordable rent (rents set at Local Housing Allowance levels) and shared ownership.

The challenge

Formulating a robust and evidenced based proposal for the council to start developing, based on a current understanding of the national and local housing markets context and drawing on housing development expertise as appropriate.

The solution

In conjunction with Altair, the production of a clearly defined business case supported by an options appraisal of possible delivery methods, and an indicative development programme and business plan underpinned by current market and locally informed development appraisal assumptions.

 The impact (including cost savings/income generated if applicable)

Direct provision by the council would form a vital part of an approach to help shape Derbyshire Dale’s local housing market. Delivering its own homes will mean that the council can specify and deliver exactly what is required to meet local need and to a standard that fully supports vulnerable households. In addition, the indicative development programme will generate additional net revenue stream for the council.

How is the new approach being sustained?

Initially, the proposal is for schemes to be financed from available section 106 income and Right to Buy receipts, combined with externally sourced grant subsidy and sales receipts (from first tranche shared ownership sales) as appropriate. Borrowing additional capital could also be used to supplement the delivery of the programme further if required.

This mix of funding sources aims to ensure a financially sustainable and viable development programme. The next stage of the project will involve developing detailed implementation and project plans.

Lessons learned

The project brought together a national perspective and understanding of the housing market can be combined with a detailed local perspective to develop a well evidenced and balanced project business case.  

A number of areas are important lessons to take into similar projects. This can helpfully be defined under the acronym of PRES;

  • Plan B – ensure a plan B (and even C and D) is detailed or thought out. This can be eluded to in reporting forums (such as committees) so that should a change of plan, including for example funding, be needed, there is a course of action.
  • Risk – linked closely to a plan B, is a robust framework for managing risk that is put in place early in the process. This can help identify key issues that need to be mitigated and dealt with early on. A workshop or brainstorming meeting can assist with this.
  • Engagement – wide engagement both internally in the council and with key external stakeholders (eg funders) helps paint the picture for the whole organisation about what the project is about. This helps ensure transparency and invites all stakeholders to shape the project.
  • Strategic fit – the key project drivers should align to key strategic aims of the project and this alignment should be identified right at the start.