Friday, 28 April 2017

HCA’s new chief calls for housing association collaboration

The Homes and Community Agency’s new chief executive Nick Walkley has called on housing associations to better collaborate and ‘rediscover’ their founding aims of delivering more homes.

Mr Walkley was speaking at a session hosted by the Manchester delegation at the MIPIM property conference in Cannes in March 2017, facilitated by Social Housing and exploring the avenues to reaching the government’s 1 million new homes target.

Much of the debate focused on the release of land, modular construction and housing association financial and development capacity. (Watch the full panel session below).

Mr Walkley - who was just over a week into the new job after joining from Haringey council - said: ‘There is a time for competition and a time for collaboration – and Manchester’s authorities are an outstanding example of when there’s a time for collaboration.

‘There’s a challenge now for housing associations.

‘If we need to guarantee a supply and we need to help underwrite land, are housing associations prepared to now work together around the supply chain, around modern methods, to help us underwrite that factory we need in the north west and elsewhere in the UK?

‘I’d argue now’s the time on some issues for the sector to collaborate rather than compete.’

Asked if that sentiment goes for house builder too, he added: ‘I do think there are too many examples where local authorities are showing real leadership, arguing for place, and then a number of homebuilders are delivering the same product.

‘If they are delivering the same product we ought to be able to raise the quality of that product through a degree of standardisation and working together on it.’

Mr Walkley welcomed the view from fellow panelist Stephen Haigh that the sector has several billions of pounds of latent financial capacity, and the example of Your Housing in using its balance sheet to leverage supply through its off-site construction joint venture, Live Verde.

The HCA’s chief executive added: ‘It’s easy to find lots of arguments for not moving forward in the current difficult climate, but that’s to fail in some of the founding aims of many associations, which is to deliver more affordable homes.

‘A rediscovery of some of those roots seems really important.’

Eamonn Boylan, chief executive of the Greater Manchester Combined Authority, said they RPs across Manchester are working very positively, adding that they have contemplated bringing RPs together into a single development company.

‘Collaboration across the RP sector in GM is in a good place,’ he added, adding that success is largely driven by ‘a shared vision of place’.

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