Meaningful partnerships will solve the housebuilding logjam by Iain McPherson
Last month, I was delighted to welcome Robert Jenrick, the new housing secretary, to Acton Gardens, our £820m regeneration scheme in West London.
As the tour progressed, the partnerships which we have built with our joint venture partner L&Q, Ealing Council and the local community were a noticeable reminder why close collaboration and developing partnerships is the way forward to ensure we meet the growing demand for new homes.
The housing crisis has been blamed on a wide range of causes: under-resourced planning departments, land scarcity, a shortage of skilled workers and commodities to build out schemes at speed, and a failure by the industry to innovate and embrace new methods of construction, to name but a few.
Whilst all of these are undoubtedly contributing factors, focusing on the practicalities of how quickly we can construct homes is an overly simplistic approach. Addressing the housing shortage is not just about building new homes; the industry must take a long-term view and ensure any project succeeds in creating sustainable new places where people want to live and can enjoy their surroundings.
We need to focus on mixed-tenure and mixed-use communities that unlock an area’s potential by delivering new local amenities, community facilities, public spaces and transport infrastructure. With councils increasingly looking at schemes holistically, delivering such plans requires close collaboration and strategic partnerships with local residents, community groups, councils, housing associations and other statutory providers.
Working in partnership delivers better results by bringing together a broader range of perspectives, expertise and priorities. When councils and housing associations work with private developers, there is a strengthened value in the varied skill sets that are provided by the parties. Rather than resulting in a development that is compromised, this approach has the potential to result in a scheme that has broader appeal and more accurately reflects the needs and aspirations of the local community and future residents.
And the proof is in the pudding. Acton Gardens - once a sprawling estate in need of urgent regeneration, is now a flourishing community which has broken down the social boundaries that divided the old estate and neighbouring communities through close community engagement. When we started working together with L&Q, 80% of existing residents wanted to leave and now 94% want to move into the new homes that are being created.
As an industry, it’s time we move on from rhetoric and demonstrate how we can collectively work together and deliver sustainable communities, creating places people want to live, work and ultimately love.
Chief Executive, Partnerships South, Countryside