Spelthorne Borough Council (SBC) faces a range of interrelated housing challenges in its area, including affordability, housing supply (particularly affordable housing), meeting local housing need particularly for those in temporary accommodation, and empty homes.
Altair worked with the council to consider how the council can intervene in the local housing market to support several strategic objectives and provided an action plan that the council can follow to guide existing and further interventions in the housing market over the next 24 months.
The council undertook a stock transfer to what is now A2Dominion. The lack of diversity of registered providers in the borough is one of the housing challenges. However, SBC are engaged in the provision of a social lettings service, and accommodation for the use of temporary housing as well as the formation of an incorporated wholly-owned private company, Knowle Green Estates (KGE) to deliver a range of housing tenures through developments in the borough.
In looking to actively address the housing challenges in SBC, the council have five key areas that could be used to intervene in the market locally. These areas have been used to establish the actions available to the council and are set out below:
• council-owned accommodation
• RP-owned accommodation
• KGE owned accommodation
• role of the private sector
• empty homes.
SBC wanted to make sure they are focusing resources in the right areas to ensure outcomes are maximised and also sense check existing efforts to ensure the direction of travel is robust.
The LGA project brought together officers from across the council to work together on identifying solutions and opportunities to increase the supply of affordable housing in the borough.
A series of theme-based workshops were held to understand the overview of the borough, activities it is currently carrying out, what could be done better, what could be done more of and what else could be done to increase affordable housing in the borough.
For example, SBC are already working to provide more affordable housing in the borough (eg through Knowle Green Estates) but it is recognised there is an opportunity to do more such as buy up sites that aren’t being delivered.
An action plan has been developed identifying a range of activities the council could carry out to support increased delivery of affordable housing in the borough as well as deliver directly itself. The proposed action plan will feed into the council’s next housing strategy.
There will be several potential tangible outcomes from implementation of the proposed action plan such as:
- General increased delivery of affordable housing in the borough
- Increase affordable housing through planning gain
- Increased activity from partner RPs in the borough
- Increased investment in the borough (both public and private sector)
There will also less tangible outcomes such better working relationships with the local stock transfer RP and improved, more targeted intermediate affordable housing opportunities (eg key workers).
How is the new approach being sustained?
In developing the action plan and reporting, colleagues from across the council sat on the steering group (including the deputy chief executive). This created a sense of ownership from all parts of the council to enable delivery of the action plan moving forward. It also allowed for some open discussions to draw out the key issues that need further work by SBC.
The housing strategy & policy manager has taken a lead on implementation of the action plan post issue of the report.
- Don’t discount anything in advance of the review. Explore possible solutions even though you think you don’t want to go down that route.
- Use case studies to validate good practice elsewhere, particularly where there is internal resistance already.
- Book in officer and member working groups well in advance as availability of key members can delay the process.