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Opinion: We have entered a new era of housebuilding

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Opinion: We have entered a new era of housebuilding

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Published by Max Salsbury for 24dash.com in Housing and also in Central Government, Development, Finance

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Details of the Homes and Communities Agency’s affordable homes programme for 2015/18 have been revealed. Here, Nigel Wilson, chair of North West consortium JV North and chief executive of Wythenshawe Community Housing Group, provides his reaction.

Unquestionably, we have entered a new era of housebuilding.

While the initial headlines pulled from the prospectus may have caused alarm in some quarters, in essence the fundamental points are, to some degree, what most landlords strive for.

Meeting local needs and priorities, addressing demographic challenges, countering stock discrepancies and ensuring value for money are elements at the heart of all good housing business plans regardless of government policy.

From an economic development perspective, it is the certainty what the funding brings that should be welcomed most warmly.

A three-year programme from 2015 allows organisations to plan and £1.7 billion for landlords outside of London presents a great opportunity.

It’s worth reminding ourselves the global economic landscape has changed, perhaps forever.

Lessons have clearly been learned from the 2011/15 programme.

With the HCA retaining 25% of the fund, it will avoid the ‘dash for cash’ witnessed in round one and means emerging opportunities won’t be missed.

Receiving 50% at start on site and the remainder on completion reflects a better level of risk sharing while scheme specific grant means much-needed supported housing can be delivered.

In the 2011/15 programme, JV North - nine landlords in the North West that deliver modern, sustainable homes to meet our customers’ needs - embraced the opportunity.

The consortium built 905 homes thanks to a £20 million HCA grant coupled with £84m of investment from members.

The JV North procurement framework and the economies of scale it commands ensure it obtains best value for money and the work provides the opportunity to create local training and jobs.

Round one also saw evidence of landlord and local authority collaboration and more is needed second time round if the programme is to flourish.

One of the major changes causing concern is the HCA requirement that homes are built to meet demand with one and two-bedroom properties cited as examples.

Naturally, thoughts turn to the bedroom tax but the criteria clearly states development bids should accurately reflect what is needed in local communities.

As ever, creating sustainable housing stock for local communities is the challenge and one the sector should look to take on.

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