Councils Building Homes marks year of events

Thu 14 November 2019, 2:03 pm

A year of successful events were celebrated with the fourth well-attended forum of Councils Building Homes held at the Local Government Association.

The event combines industry experts and council officers providing a platform to share knowledge, discuss challenges and exchange lessons about how to overcome barriers to home delivery.

This is part of a series of occasions delivered through a partnership between publishing and events company 3Fox International, and development consultancy Airey Miller.

Peter Airey and Caroline Pillay, from Airey Miller, introduced the event on Wednesday (November 13) that included three keynote speakers, an informative audience Q&A and round table discussions in small groups.

Jack Ostrofsky, head of design and technical at housing association Peabody, spoke about the concept of the "golden thread", which came out of Dame Judith Hackitt’s independent review of building regulations and fire safety in the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire.

The report written in May 2018, called Building a Safer Future, suggested a “golden thread” of information was needed for “all complex and high-risk building projects” that would help create a process for building homes that would make them safe for residents.

Mike De’Ath, partner at HTA Design, was enthusiastic about the future of the development of homes by council-led companies. He said: “We’re at the cusp of a new era of municipal housing.” He spoke in a joint talk with Caroline Pillay, senior partner at Airey Miller, about hurdles councils face when it comes to building homes discussing skills and experience gaps, the challenges and opportunities of modular housing and 3D printing.

De’ath added: “What I’m passionate about and why I’m pleased to be here collaborating with Airey Miller is to try and make sure we tee up this next iteration of good municipal housing, other sorts of housing and regeneration on the shoulders of all the lessons we’ve learnt.”

Tom Kenny, policy officer at the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI), was the final speaker at the event and spoke about an RTPI report that explored how and why local authorities are directly delivering new housing in England.

The Local Authority Direct Delivery of Housing: 2019 Continuation Research was created by Professor Janice Morphet and Dr Ben Clifford at the Bartlett School of Planning at University College London, and its Research Advisory Group included a number of planning experts including Mike De’Ath.

Kenny said the findings included that the “vast majority” of local authorities had housing companies or joint ventures and added many councils who did not were exploring the idea.

There was also often a focus by councils on specific needs including housing for older people. Kenny added a database had been created by RTPI to show what every authority is doing in England.

He said: “The goal was to give a snapshot of everything that is going on, but also to allow local authorities to look at what their neighbours are doing. We found that one of the drivers of local authority delivery is when people see what is going on around them, and being inspired by it.”

A crucial part of the report involved working out the motivations for homes delivery by councils, where the need to meet housing requirements topped the list, while second was tackling homelessness and third was income generation.

Kenny added: “Almost no local authorities think that the market will deliver all their housing needs, so they have to get involved in housing delivery in order to meet the diversity of needs they have.

“At a time of extreme pressure on local authority budgets a lot of local authorities are starting housing companies at least to some degree to generate income, and some are being quite successful in doing that.”

Following the presentations there was an audience Q&A session with the speakers, and the final part of the event offered the chance to take part in round table discussions in small groups on topics including the “golden thread”, government funding options, how to make the most of small sites and overcoming obstacles to delivery.

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