Setting up a council-owned housing company – guide launched

Tue 14 March 2017, 9:54 am

A practical guide for local authorities setting up housing companies that are wholly owned by councils was launched on 7 March.

Written by consultant Mark Baigent, who has created three local housing companies for councils since 2010, How to set up a Local Housing Company offers case studies and step-by-step templates for the fast-growing number of councils looking at investing in, improving and developing housing in this way.

Research conducted last year by publishing and events company 3Fox International indicated that over half of all councils in England and Wales are considering or have already set up a housing company. The guide is being made freely available to councils across the country. The author, Mark Baigent, said: “I have been involved in setting up and running council housing companies since 2010, first in Greenwich, then in Sutton and now in Tower Hamlets.

“What has been glaring in its absence has been the lack of any publication of detailed practical guidance, whether from government or bodies such as London Councils or the Local Government Association. So many councils are doing this and each one has had to start from scratch.

“In the course of my work I shared with colleagues the tips and lessons, insights, wisdom and tricks of the trade we had learned. It struck me that if I could gather these together it might be a real help to others looking to set up housing companies. 3Fox made it possible for me to distribute this work to the widest possible audience. With a change of housing minister and a shift in government thinking evident in the recent White Paper on housing, the time is perfect for this guide.” 

The publication was launched at consultancy Lambert Smith Hampton's London offices, with a panel of experts from the public and private sectors presenting housing company case studies and answering council officers’ and elected members’ questions about them. Examples emerged of councils setting up local housing companies to provide temporary accommodation for homeless people; to provide starter homes for young professionals and families; to populate town centres; to kickstart failed housing markets; to provide homes for the elderly; and simply to generate revenue that councils can use to fund other local services.

Speaking at the event Colm Lacey, managing director of Croydon local housing company Brick by Brick, said: “One of our programmes is to build 1,000 homes on smaller sites throughout Croydon. We buy the land from Croydon Council and the value of the land is calculated based on what the scheme will deliver, not the other way around. Because of that, 50% of the homes we build will be affordable, compared to 15% on sites developed privately in recent years.

“There is huge value to the public sector in doing this. We've been quite outspoken in supporting councils to build houses through housing companies, so I applaud Mark Baigent and 3Fox International for bringing this guide out.” 

Michael Hill, business strategy director at Countryside, said: “Local authorities have a very exciting opportunity to really drive up the supply of high quality affordable new homes through local housing companies, working in joint ventures partnerships with companies like Countryside. We were delighted to support this event which will have provided a lot of very useful advice on setting up these companies.” 

Stephen Armitage, director of real estate advisory at Lambert Smith Hampton, added: “The government target is one million new homes by 2020, and the Mayor of London wants 250,000 by 2020. This is asking for the equivalent of new towns and cities to be built in just three years. Local housing companies are just scratching the surface right now. The question is: how can we get the public sector building at pace and at scale to affect some of these targets?”

How to set up a Local Housing Company by Mark Baigent is available digitally from 3Fox International Ltd. Contact Christopher Hazeldine on Christopher@3foxinternational.com or 020 7978 6840 for a copy, or visit www.housinginnovations.org.

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