Case study: Bridge Homes – Wakefield

Bridge Homes Yorkshire is a joint venture between Wakefield District Homes and Wakefield Council, formed in 2014, and is working to meet the district’s affordable housing target by providing quality homes.

How many and what sort of homes are being delivered?

Bridge Homes will deliver 90 new, high quality homes per annum by 2022/2023 and has an aspiration to move to 120 homes per annum. 30% of these will be affordable on sites within the Wakefield district.

15% of Bridge Homes properties will be available for social rent and 15% for shared ownership.

How did the partnership get started?

The decision for Wakefield District Homes and Wakefield Council and to join forces was a natural one. Wakefield Council has set a very challenging target in its Local Plan and Wakefield District Homes has a wealth of experience and expertise in developing new homes.

The two are prominent public sector organisations with very closely aligned values. Both are committed to providing training, employment and apprenticeships and improving the lives of local people.

The partnership in detail

Bridge Homes Yorkshire is a joint venture between Wakefield District Homes and Wakefield Council, providing quality homes and helping to meet the district’s affordable housing target.

The partnership has grown significantly since its establishment in 2014, now employing three full-time employees – a joint venture Manager, a sales manager and a sales negotiator.

Bridge Homes has completed its first development, St Swithins in Wakefield which consisted of 30 properties. Its second development at ThornesGate, consisting of 96 properties, is currently under construction and is expected to be complete during early summer 2020.

Its third development at Calder Fields, consisting of 43 properties, has sold well and will complete in July 2019. The fourth development of 55 properties at Flanshaw is due to start on site during July 2019. Pre-planning work is ongoing at two further sites, each of which will deliver in excess of 100 units.

Bridge Homes is run by a board consisting of members from both Wakefield District Homes and Wakefield Council. It operates as a commercial organisation, with profits being reinvested to assist cashflow and growth. When first established, each partner made an initial capital investment to create operating funds for the company, sharing the associated risks equally.

Construction is undertaken by local contractors from a framework which also extends to architects, engineers and marketing consultants. All other functions are undertaken in house by a joint venture manager, project manager, joint venture accountant and sales team.

The outputs from Bridge's activities include a land receipt to the council, the provision of 30% policy compliant affordable homes and 50/50 shared profit on sales. 26 apprentice positions have been created, 90% plus of spend on labour is local, together with the majority of spend on materials, and a £7m joint capital investment has been leveraged to deliver £43.4m worth of housing.

What have been the greatest benefits and what challenges has the group experienced along the way?

  • The Bridge Homes partnership has created numerous benefits for both the organisations involved and the local community.
  • The partnership provides the opportunity to share best practice and receive advice from a range of experienced, industry professionals, as well as access to already well established industry relationships.
  • It has also created efficiencies – land can be purchased directly from Wakefield Council (commercial value is always paid) and through collaboration, the council and the housing association have been able to reduce overheads.
  • Ultimately, the community benefits as all profits are reinvested into building more affordable homes for the district and the number of high quality new homes available is increased.

What would be the group's message to other housing associations and local authorities looking to do something similar?

  • Ensure you have a strong buy-in to the principles of the partnership.
  • Whilst it is acknowledged that Bridge Homes needs to operate at arms-length from the various statutory council functions, a certain level of engagement is important.
  • We are doing work at the moment to reaffirm the joint venture’s purpose through board away days and other forums.