Building homes will take all sectors working together
Ahead of our TAI Cymru conference, Robin Staines, managing director of Cartrefi Croesco, says meeting housing need requires the will, energy, leadership and resources of all sectors to get what needs to be done, done. The challenge is too great to be left to one sector.
For sixty years, somewhere between a third and a half of all UK housebuilding was undertaken by local authorities. This policy, intention and commitment took a sharp turn in 1980 with council’s selling their stock and being heavily discouraged from replacing it. That was then, this is now.
The problems that face us require the will, energy, leadership and resources of all sectors to get what needs to be done, done. The challenge is too great to be left to one sector.
Contrary to popular belief, councils did not stop building or commissioning building in 1980. Some of the best examples of community regeneration have seen the local authority as a key partner, if not driver. If anyone doubts local authority capability, have a look at the 21st Century schools programme that has seen an enormous and beneficial investment in the nation’s schools. There are also tremendous examples of leisure and care facilities, amongst others.
However, this has not generally extended to the provision of new homes. Half of Welsh authorities no longer have a housing stock and this has an impact on not only the capacity but also on internal profile. That is not to say that those authorities do not have a front and centre role in understanding local need, ensuring a clarity in commissioning and nurturing successful partnerships.
For those with homes, and all those with land, the proposition is aligning assets (including human) to get things done. This will inevitably include taking risks as the reward is greater than the danger. Janice Morphet (Town and Country Planning, May 2016) has identified 28 ways local authorities can, and indeed have, got homes built. It’s well worth a read. All of those initiatives meant someone went first and took the risk. Credit, therefore, to councillors in Flintshire and Carmarthenshire for setting up local housing companies. So, it can be done.
But, let’s not guess what councils can and can’t do. I have heard too many times councils can’t build again, they haven’t got the capacity, skills, experience, capabilities etc. I would argue that this approach doesn’t help. Firstly not all councils may want to build again, the problems they are trying to solve doesn’t necessitate this approach. Secondly, let’s recognise what can be done, build on this and focus on the outcomes. While guessing and assumptions may be rife, lets not let a hunch rule the roost. It will take all of us working together to solve this one as we all have something to offer.