Unlocking land is key in driving affordable housing delivery for social landlords, writes ForLiving’s Paul Gerrard
WHAT is the biggest barrier in delivering more affordable homes across the North of England? We hear the same answer time and again – finding the land.
Yes, there are issues around planning, skills and a multitude of other factors to consider. But ultimately, without the land to build on, the homes we want will never materialise.
By 2030, the North is predicted to have a housing shortage of 86,000 properties. That’s a big problem for the future of our region.
Landlords all across the North of England have made big commitments to Homes England on housing delivery.
They must be seen to be using their surpluses to support the building of more homes across a range of tenure to meet housing need.
For some this will mean they are embarking on their first major housebuilding programmes. For others, it may mean stepping into new parts of the region where they are unfamiliar.
Traditionally, landlords are experts in housing management, not development.
And as all those landlords who are currently trying to recruit for in-house development teams will testify, skills in this field can be both limited and highly expensive.
Dozens of landlords all stepping into the market at the same time also has the perverse effect of driving up land prices.
The new development landscape is a step into the unknown and will sit high on the risk register for the boards of many registered providers.
This is where landlords are becoming increasingly vulnerable to external consultants and ‘experts’ cashing in on their development pipelines.
By bringing forward and ‘flipping’ land they are able to walk development opportunities up to landlords’ doors.
This is an attractive proposition for providers. It mitigates risk and delivers housing numbers.
What it also does is take money out of our sector to fund the lifestyles of property investors – many of which are from outside of the region.
That is why at ForLiving we are working in partnership with registered providers to help unlock development sites so they can bring forward new homes – with any money made reinvested directly into improving people’s lives.
As part of the ForViva Group of companies, we have a strong history in development.
In the North West we’ve built more than 900 new homes to date across a mix of tenures and we’ll be building a further 540 by 2020.
We know which sites work and which don’t, and we have the in-house expertise and resources to rival and eclipse any external investor.
Partnerships between housing providers will be crucial.
We all share the same goal, so we can’t all fish from the same pond and we can’t all have the same expertise.
That is why we have been reaching out to other providers to talk about how we can help unlock land opportunities on their patch.
This land inclusive offer has been well received and is already proving an attractive proposition.
We’ve been agile enough that we can work to really specific briefs, while our reach stretches across the North West.
We handle all aspects of land procurement and have the financial clout to move quickly once sites become available.
We are working closely with landlords on a range of sites, stretching from dozens to hundreds of homes. Some are for sale and shared ownership, others affordable rent.
Any profits made on land we acquire is reinvested in building more affordable homes in the North of England, not fast cars and London penthouses.
This is a chance for real collaboration in our sector that will see us building more homes while putting people above profits.
Paul Gerrard is director of ForLiving, part of the ForViva Group