Housing peer challenge

A Housing peer challenge offers an independent review of a housing service, providing the basis to reflect on service achievement and identify opportunities for improvement.


The housing predicament in England

There is a housing crisis.  The principal causes are insufficient housing supply to meet demand and increasing house prices that have greatly extended the ratio of average house prices to average salaries.

Another factor has been the reduction in levels of house building – both market and affordable housing.  This has been reducing for over 40 years, despite a recent reprise, and has been exacerbated since the financial crash of 2008.

This has resulted in imbalanced housing markets across England.  The consequences include:  housing affordability as a significant barrier for first time buyers; a burgeoning private rented sector and a ‘generation rent’; rising homelessness and those who are more vulnerable in society being exposed to even greater housing uncertainty.

The government recognises the importance of housing supply in the Housing and Planning Act 2016.  This has been followed up by a White Paper ‘Fixing our broken housing market’ published February 2017.  The government has set a target of a million new homes to be built by 2020.

However, many commentators are sceptical that the market alone can provide the supply of housing needed.  What is certain is that councils must be at the heart of strategies to resolve the national housing crisis. The government has recently announced the lifting of the HRA borrowing cap and many councils are considering the implications of this and how they may move to building social housing in their areas.

The importance of housing for councils

The urgency of housing has risen in importance to become a corporate priority for councils.  It is well established that the provision of housing is a corollary to economic growth.  This association is strengthened by government proposals to link future government finance to business rates retention.

Housing of sufficient quantity, affordability and quality is vital for successful local communities.  This is important not only to meet local need but also to support the growth of local economies, which depends upon retaining the skills of local people, and accommodating inward investment.

In recognition of the housing crisis the LGA is offering a no-cost housing peer challenge for up to 8 councils in England. 

What is a housing peer challenge?

A housing peer challenge offers an independent housing service review by a team of experienced housing peers and is available for both stock holding and non-stock holding councils.  The housing peer challenge takes account of recent developments in local government housing, including:  housing investment opportunities; the establishment of housing companies; new ways of working with housing associations; institutional investment; working with the private rented sector; investment efficiency etc.

A housing peer challenge will review the council’s housing market and consider the threats and opportunities presented.  It will evaluate the strength and quality of working relationships with principal housing partners and whether these are working at optimum levels.  It will also examine the resources deployed by the council and partners for housing delivery and whether this is targeted most effectively.  Critical too will be the strength and quality of leadership on housing within the council and from partners.

The outcome from the peer challenge will be a report that includes recommendations.  It is intended that this will enable the council to establish a housing improvement plan that will lead to beneficial and quantifiable housing outcomes.

The themes that structure the peer challenge provide the framework but the focus of every peer challenge is bespoke to the needs of each individual place.  Find out more about the themes.

Following the peer challenge the LGA will discuss with the council what further support may be available to support improvement.

How to bid for a no-cost housing peer challenge for your council

  1. Submit an expression of interest (EOI).  This should include a two page summary that describes the housing market in the council area, the issues that are causing difficulty for housing, the work that is being conducted with partners, available resources and resource constraints and the outcomes that you would like the peer challenge to deliver.
  2. EOIs should be submitted to Andrew Winfield at andrew.winfield@local.gov.uk
  3. More information on this programme can be obtained from Andrew Winfield – email andrew.winfield@local.gov.uk or tel. 07786 542754.
  4. Alternatively you may wish to have a discussion with the LGA Principal Adviser for your region

The process that follows a successful bid

The housing peer challenge is tailored to local priorities and circumstances and consists of the following stages:

  • a scoping discussion with the council officers and members (and possibly partners)
  • the LGA assembling a peer team with the requisite skills to deliver on the agreed project scope
  • the council developing a position statement, producing an onsite timetable and assembling key documents for advance reading by the peer team
  • the peer team will spend three to four days on-site meeting a range of staff, members and partners to gather evidence, explore issues and potential solutions
  • the peer team feeding back key findings and practical suggestions for improvement.

Are you interested in becoming a housing peer for the LGA?

The housing peer challenge will require additional officer and member peers to support delivery.

Being a member of a peer challenge team provides a valuable experience in understanding another council’s housing service and identifying areas for potential improvement that can add value.  On top of that they provide a fantastic learning opportunity to work as part of a high-powered peer team and to take away experience that you may adapt for your own council.  This is the model of sector-led improvement.

Find out more about becoming a peer.   

If you would like to discuss this further then please contact Andrew Winfield at andrew.winfield@local.gov.uk or tel. 07786 542754.


For more information about housing and planning, including publications, case studies, briefings and news, see our housing and planning topic section.