Don’t forget the smaller players if you want to fix the housing crisis

At the end of January, Housing Minister Kit Malthouse visited Bristol to find out more about the region’s ambition to stem the housing crisis.

Sally Gilbert is a Development Director at United Communities

Sally Gilbert is a Development Director at United Communities

9 May 2019

Bristol has a huge housing demand, and while we are working hard to deliver new homes across the city and the surrounding areas, there is still much work to be done.

As a small housing association, we were thrilled that the Minister’s visit was scheduled to include two projects that we are heavily involved with. We were also delighted to have the opportunity to discuss what we feel the Government could do to enable us to continue building new homes.

We can play a crucial role

In preparation for this meeting, I spent my morning reflecting and researching on what I actually wanted from the Minister. Housing, were it not for Brexit, would clearly be the issue of the day for the Government – the new funding being made available and new strategic partnerships being created with larger housing associations show just how much of an important area this is at the moment.

As I sat in our chilly onsite office, surveying the first phase of our 161-unit scheme, I realised that while there is a great impetus to fix the housing crisis, the thing I wanted from the Minister was for him to help the smaller players to play their part.

As I told the Minister whilst I showed him around our site, 81% of housing associations are classified as small, yet we own just 4.4% of total housing association stock. If we really wish to see the numbers of affordable housing required built, why not lay down the gauntlet to this large group of small organisations to enable us to do our part? After all, was it not the smaller boats that really saved the day at Dunkirk!

Help us deliver

United Communities is proud to think of itself as ‘punching above its weight’. We have an ambitious development target that could not be achieved without the additional funding that Homes England and Bristol City Council have committed to.

We have aimed to use our existing assets in the best possible way to deliver more homes for our sector, while also not forgetting about the communities they are meant for. This has been key to our success at getting the community onside for many of our schemes.

Homes England has shown its willingness to consider new ways of working with the largest housing associations to unlock more homes, through the Strategic Partnerships programme.

Why not turn their attention now to medium and smaller organisations – the little and local? Could they work with us in a different way as well, to unlock the capacity of the 81%? We’re keen to work with Homes England to think through what this might look like. It could have a big impact on the housing crisis we see today.

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