Councils and HAs must work closer together, advise experts

// HA News

A close relationship between local authorities and housing associations will be crucial to meet housing need, according to a new best practice research guide by the Chartered Institute of Housing.

Building Bridges recommends local authorities and housing associations partner more closely in a number of major areas, including new systems to establish affordability in their areas and jointly-funded systems to manage allocations and lettings.

Local authorities and housing associations across England were interviewed and visited as part of the research guide, which CIH worked with the Association of Retained Council Housing (ARCH) and housing association VIVID to produce.

It explores the tensions between the two sets of organisations and makes a series of recommendations on how they could work together more effectively, as well as outlining a series of proposals to government to allow their relationship to thrive.

Terrie Alafat CBE, the chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Housing, said “It is clear that the potential in local authorities and housing associations working together is huge and it has never been more important for these two sets of organisations to be close partners.

“Building Bridges showcases some great examples of local authorities and housing associations working extremely closely to make sure people in their communities get access to a decent, affordable home.

“Unfortunately this is not a consistent picture and we desperately need to maximise the potential in this relationship if we are going to tackle the housing crisis.

“It is true that much of the tension between councils and housing associations has its origins in government policy, and in the guide we have made a series of recommendations on how government could act on this.

“But this research also highlights that by working together more closely and sharing resource councils and housing associations can make sure the right homes are built in the right places.”

Mark Perry, chief executive of VIVID, said “People are at the heart of why we need to increase and improve our capacity to provide many more truly affordable homes.

“Homelessness in our country is unacceptable so housing associations and local authorities need to embrace and appreciate each other’s differences and move forward to deliver stronger, more innovative housing solutions together, as recommended in this guide. By doing this we can make the most of our partnership and start to make a real impact on the wellbeing of our communities.”

John Bibby, chief executive of ARCH, said “The government has recognised that the housing market is broken and there is an urgent need to increase the supply of new housing across all tenures to meet the housing needs of current and future generations – particularly for affordable housing.

“There are undoubtedly some tensions between what should be very strong partners - much if it caused by government policy. It is essential that we build bridges between the two sectors and ensure local authorities and the housing association sector work together if we are to provide the safe, decent and affordable housing that our communities need. This report points the way to how we can achieve that.”

The authors of the guide are Ross Fraser, Gemma Duggan, from Altair and John Perry, CIH's senior policy adviser.

Recommendations to councils and housing associations in the new guide include:

  • Work in partnership to develop a Local Housing Affordability Framework (LHAF) to identify the required mix of homes and agreed targets in terms of number of homes and range of rents for each tenure
  • Work together at a local level to develop a new, more dynamic system for allocations and lettings for which the cost is shared
  • Work more closely on homelessness; jointly collecting data on street homelessness and increasing engagement with other organisations to support vulnerable homeless people

Recommendations to the government include:

  • Make the building of homes with rents that are genuinely affordable to those on low incomes a central policy objective – promoting the idea of the new Local Housing Affordability Frameworks a key way to deliver this
  • Ensure welfare reform measures align with housing policy on affordability – in particular that they do not prevent low-income households from having access to affordable housing
  • Make it easier for councils to dispose of land so that they have more freedom to facilitate affordable housing supply
  • Increase the amount of grant available for the building of new homes at lower rents
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