As a passionate believer in partnership working, I was privileged to be directly involved in the NHC Commission for Housing in the North. Looking back at the five years since the publication of the Commission’s report in 2016, it’s also important to bear in mind we have experienced Grenfell and Covid, plus defining social justice campaigns like Black Lives Matter, all of which have brought people and organisations together to make a difference to people’s lives. Of course, with a crystal ball, we might have said even more in 2016 about the growing importance of collaboration as the means of addressing health, economic, environmental, educational and other inequalities, plus of course, building safety. But thankfully, in this changing world we are demonstrating the critical importance of partnership working and we have some great examples of local authorities and housing associations working together in a variety of ways beyond simply providing housing.
The 2015 report of the Commission was fundamentally right in defining the Housing crisis in the North as being distinctly different to that facing the rest of the country. The Commission recognised that in the North there are areas where the issue isn’t simply about a shortage of supply or affordability, but also low value, obsolete properties and other issues such as fuel poverty and economic discontent.
Lord Best said the Commission was calling for primacy to be given to place, and the need to work together in new forms of collaboration to make this happen with flexibility, powers and resources. The catalyst for making this change has been local authority strategic leadership which has united housing providers and developers in a shared vision for meeting common place-based objectives. Strong civic leadership with a convincing local narrative has set the tone for enabling the sharing of best practice. Local, local, local is the focus for successful partnership working, and the sharing of skills and other resources to meet the housing opportunities in the North.
In Bradford, the Goitside regeneration is an exemplar of partnership working at a local level and clearly demonstrates how place-based regeneration does work. Chain Street is part of this regeneration and provides an excellent case study of how the collaboration of Bradford Council, Incommunities, Homes England and the private sector can achieve place-based transformation. The Bradford Health and Well-being Board provides another example of local authority leadership working innovatively to embrace the housing sector. Partners from housing have joined NHS, CCG, the third sector, police, fire and Bradford council in an inclusive approach to improve lives in the communities they serve.
In 2018 Calderdale Council and Together Housing Group entered into an investment partnership to deliver six hundred and fifty new homes by 2023 across Calderdale. The Council supports the partnership through the identification of land in its ownership which is transferred to Together Housing Group below market value to achieve ‘best value’ through the realisation of new, high quality, affordable homes. Beech Hill in the centre of Halifax is one of the challenging projects which will enable £15.5m investment to provide a mix of two, three and four bedroomed homes at affordable rents. This innovative project will incorporate cycle ways and public open space.
Partnership working is also realising huge benefits at a regional level, as well as locally. The West Yorkshire Housing Partnership provides an important vehicle for engaging housing associations in an improved relationship with the Combined Authority. The partnership provides a single voice for housing in the region and has engaged in the Brownfield Housing Fund Programme which will see three hundred affordable homes built at the South Bank in Leeds.
Creating a better world requires partnership working. The Commission for Housing in the North was right to highlight its criticality to addressing the unique challenges we face. It is so encouraging to see so many local, and regional, organisations providing the leadership to work effectively together. We will need partnership working for many decades to come; together we are stronger in improving people’s lives.