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CIH launches local authority and housing association guidance

Words: Laura Edgar
Cooperation / iStock-607974654

A new best practice research guide has suggested that local authorities and housing associations having a close relationship will be crucial to meeting housing need.

Building Bridges, by the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) in partnership with the Association of Retained Council Housing (ARCH) and housing association VIVID, was launched today.

The research involved interviewing local authorities and housing associations

The study recommends that local authorities and housing associations should work together more closely in a number of major areas. This includes new systems to establish affordability in their areas and jointly funded systems to manage allocations and lettings.

The CIH said Building Bridges considers the tensions between the two sets of organisations and suggests how they could work together more effectively as well as how the government could allow their relationship to thrive.

Terrie Alafat CBE, the chief executive of the CIH, said: “It is clear that the potential in local authorities and housing associations working together is huge and it has never been more important for these two sets of organisations to be close partners.

Building Bridges showcases some great examples of local authorities and housing associations working extremely closely to make sure people in their communities get access to a decent, affordable home.

“Unfortunately this is not a consistent picture and we desperately need to maximise the potential in this relationship if we are going to tackle the housing crisis.”

She said much of the tension between councils and housing associations has its origins in government policy. Therefore, Alafat noted, the guide makes a number of recommendations on how the government could act on this.

It “also highlights that by working together more closely and sharing resource councils and housing associations can make sure the right homes are built in the right places”.

Recommendations in Building Bridges include:

  • For councils and housing associations:

- Work in partnership to develop a local housing affordability framework (LHAF) to identify the required mix of homes and agreed targets for the number of homes and range of rents for each tenure.

- Work together at a local level to develop a new, more dynamic system for allocations and lettings for which the cost is shared.

  • For the government:

- Make building homes for “genuinely affordable” for those on low incomes a central policy objective – promoting the idea of the new LHAF a key way to deliver this.

- Ensure that welfare reform measures align with housing policy on affordability – in particular that they do not prevent low-income households from having access to affordable housing.

- Make it easier for councils to dispose of land so that they have more freedom to facilitate affordable housing supply.

Mark Perry, chief executive of VIVID, said: “Homelessness in our country is unacceptable so housing associations and local authorities need to embrace and appreciate each other’s differences and move forward to deliver stronger, more innovative housing solutions together, as recommended in this guide. By doing this we can make the most of our partnership and start to make a real impact on the well-being of our communities.”

John Bibby, chief executive of ARCH, said: “There are undoubtedly some tensions between what should be very strong partners – much of it caused by government policy. It is essential that we build bridges between the two sectors and ensure local authorities and the housing association sector work together if we are to provide the safe, decent and affordable housing that our communities need. This report points the way to how we can achieve that.”

Building Bridges can be found on the CIH website (pdf).

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