Housing associations are key to economic growth and building thriving communities

Dave Lakin, 18 December 2019

The National Housing Federation’s new publication, Homes for the Ox-Cam Arc, outlines the contribution housing associations are making to the local economy in the Oxford-Cambridge Arc, and the potential that they have to help the region grow.

The final days of campaigning for a general election to elect a government for the next five years made me reflect on the timescales housing associations operate over.

At Grand Union Housing Group, we provide long-term homes for people to live and thrive in, and to put down roots. We play a huge part in so many people’s lives because the communities we build will be around for generations to come.

The investment we make in both building new homes and maintaining our existing homes plays a significant role in the economic growth of towns and regions, which is why, in comparison, a five-year horizon feels very short.

The National Infrastructure Commission report Partnering for Prosperity: A new deal for the Cambridge-Milton Keynes-Oxford Arc identified the economic opportunity for the area, based on world-class research, innovation and technology. It also emphasised the need for the right infrastructure and sufficient new homes to unlock the potential of the region.

Major new infrastructure is required in the next decade and work is progressing on plans for a new EastWest Rail line and the accelerated development of the Oxford-Cambridge Expressway.

Housing forms another key part of the strategy, through settlement expansion and the development of new towns or villages. There has been a call to double the housebuilding rate in the area, to enable 1 million new homes to be built by 2050. These new homes need to be part of desirable and attractive places for people to live and work – it is not just about building the homes.

Responding to this report, the Federation formed the Oxford-Cambridge Arc steering group last year. Formed from housing associations working in the Arc, the group has been engaging with the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government and Homes England, and started work to influence stakeholders.

A key piece of work is the creation of Homes for the Ox-Cam Arc, an initiative led by housing associations in the region, which highlights the long-term commitment and positive impact housing associations make in new and existing communities. Aside from building houses, we are also supporting individuals and helping to build communities and great places that people want to live in for generations to come.

Housing associations currently own or manage one in eight homes across the Arc and invest £632m into that economy. Housing associations are key long-term partners in helping the area grow and thrive – they meet a range of housing needs and play a leading role in placemaking.

I strongly believe that housing association involvement in the Arc from the earliest stage, is vital to ensure success for the region over the next 30 years and beyond, and the launch of the Homes for the Ox-Cam Arc initiative can help to drive this success.

Find out more about Homes for the Ox-Cam Arc and download the report