Housing associations and local authorities working together to build more homes

Allister Young and Jon Lloyd-Owen, 20 February 2019

With vital support from Cornwall Council, housing associations built a quarter of all new homes in the county last year. Part one of our look at housing associations’ partnerships with local authorities explains how the relationship works.

Two things about the housing crisis. First of all, the sheer scale of it. It’s a great big barn door that we can all take aim at without getting in each other’s way. Second, it isn’t actually one housing crisis - there are lots of different housing crises. So there are actually many different barn doors to aim at.

Take Cornwall. Only 12% of homes are in the social housing sector, compared to 18% nationally. There is a shortage of decent quality private rented homes, with more than a quarter of homes not meeting the Decent Homes Standard. And, as lovely as Cornwall is, it is one of the most economically deprived parts of Europe.

Average wages are 17% below the national average.13% of people live in areas of multiple deprivation, and average house prices are almost 11 times average earnings. So we need to build new homes – good quality affordable homes for people to live in, which will help provide employment and underpin economic growth and shared prosperity.

Together, housing associations and Cornwall Council are hard at work on this.

Last year, housing associations in Cornwall built 860 homes, which was 25% of the new homes built in the county, at a growth rate well above the national average for housing associations. This pace wouldn’t be possible without Cornwall Council.

For example, the Council provides grant to associations to build new homes, often in a way that complements national housing policy. When national grant funding was all about home ownership, Cornwall Council flexed its funding to focus more on rented homes.

The Council is also able to intervene strategically, creating opportunities for associations and other partners. In the last year it has acquired land for more than 1,000 homes, with more in the pipeline. It is also planning to invest more than £150m in land, infrastructure and homes for a new community, and £200m to provide exemplary market rented homes across Cornwall’s main settlements.

With the lifting of the Government’s cap on housing borrowing, the Council’s ambition is to provide a new generation of council homes tailored to local communities’ needs. But these will add to, not substitute for, the growth planned by housing associations.

We do things together. We’ve held joint conferences focused on housing and economic growth.  We are joining up the dots between health and housing. We’re setting up a cross-sector body that will have a strategic remit to make sure that the homes required under Cornwall’s Local Plan are delivered, and in a way that supports our local industrial strategy.

And it’s working. Over the last few years Cornwall has provided more new affordable homes than almost anywhere else in the country.

Why does it work? Maybe because we have an open, trusting relationship. We talk enough to know what barn doors we’re aiming at, and we’re willing to disagree with each other. We don’t entirely see eye to eye on choice-based lettings, or disposals of existing stock. But we respect each other, and we get on with it. After all, there’s a housing crisis to solve.