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Overcoming ‘tensions’ between councils and housing associations

Councils and housing associations must forge closer working relationships if they are to tackle the growing housing crisis, a new report has warned.

The report, Building Bridges, published by the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) looks at the ‘tensions’ that often exist between the two organisations and makes a series of recommendations about how they can overcome them and work together.

It calls on councils and housing associations develop local housing affordability frameworks to identify the required mix of homes and agreed targets.

The report asks councils and housing associations to work more closely on homelessness, by jointly collecting data on street homelessness and by engaging with other groups to support vulnerable people.

And it recommends the government make it easier for councils to dispose of land in order to increase the number of affordable homes being built.

The report cites the work being carried out by Manchester Council, the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) and the Greater Manchester Housing Provider Partnership (GMHP), which represents 24 housing associations, three ALMOs and one stock-retained council housing service.

Together, the organisations have agreed a new build target of at least 2,000 homes per annum for five years.

The report also cites also the example of the relationship between West Berkshire council and Sovereign housing association.

Both organisations have acknowledged their ‘respective commitment’ to improving the delivery of affordable housing in the district and the value of ‘each other’s skills, expertise and knowledge’.

The closer working relationship started with meetings between the two chief executives to discuss ‘individual objects and concerns’.

‘They brought together relevant employees to secure commitment and resolve any differences that were impeding progress,’ the report states.

‘This open relationship quickly led to other tangible outcomes, such as improved strategic planning and working together to alleviate homelessness.’

‘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 decent, affordable homes,’ said CIH chief executive, Terrie Alafat.

‘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.

‘It is true that much of the tension between councils and housing associations has its origins in government policy, and in the guide we have made a series of recommendations on how government could act on this.’

The chief executive of the Association of Retained Council Housing, John Bibby, said there are ‘undoubtedly some tensions between what should be very strong partners’.

‘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,’ he added.

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