Memorandum by The Housing Corporation
The Housing Corporation (the Corporation) welcomes
the opportunity to give evidence to the Committee's inquiry into
The Effectiveness of Government Regeneration Initiatives. Background
to the Housing Corporation and housing associations is provided
in Annex 1.
B. THE CORPORATION'S
The Corporation distributes funding to housing
associations via its Approved Development Programme (ADP); the
amount provided under this programme will rise to nearly £1.3
billion in 2003-04.
The Corporation has three key investment objectives:
(i) providing new, affordable housing in
areas of economic and demographic growth;
(ii) contributing to regeneration and neighbourhood
(iii) meeting the needs of a wide range of
Regeneration is therefore an important part
of our role as an investor.
C. THE CORPORATION'S
General approach to Investment
Since 2000-01 we have been moving towards a
more strategic approach to our ADP investment. A Regional Housing
Statement or Strategy (RHS) is produced by the Government Offices
and the Housing Corporation in every region. The main purpose
of the RHS is to highlight key housing issues in the region and
help to identify regional priorities. RHSs are evolving documents
that provide valuable information, helping local authorities and
housing associations to develop housing strategies.
In producing the RHSs, we and the Government
Offices have involved local and regional stakeholders, such as
local authorities and housing associations, mainly through housing
forums or officer working groups set up in each area. Regional
assemblies have also contributed to the development of the RHSs.
Inevitably, the pattern and type of consultation vary depending
on local and regional circumstances and organisational structures.
In particular, we have sought to establish closer
contact with the RDAs to ensure that the RHSs are compatible with
and help to achieve their economic strategies. We have also developed
links with other regional organisations, such as health authorities,
regional planning conferences, the Chartered Institute of Housing,
the NHF and English Partnerships.
Our field offices also issue Regional Investment
Strategies containing regional and sub-regional priorities for
the ADP derived from the RHSs. These regional and sub-regional
priorities help the Corporation to identify the areas where ADP
funding can do most good. The Corporation uses these priorities
when working with local authorities and housing associations,
bringing together partners and contributing ADP funding where
this can help regenerate an area by funding the provision of replacement
and refurbished housing.
The priorities set out in the RHSs and Regional
Investment Strategies set the context for regeneration initiatives
in each region and can be used to ensure that area-based initiatives
fit within the wider strategy for the area.
Government Regeneration Initiatives
The Corporation has been and is involved in
many of the Government's regeneration initiatives, the most recent
of these being the nine Housing Market Restructuring Pathfinders.
The Pathfinder initiative was set up partly in response to research
funded by the Corporation's Innovation and Good Practice grant
programme, and will play an important part in helping associations
to manage their stock where the housing market is at risk of failing.
The housing association sector will make important contributions
at all levels of the initiative. The Corporation will be represented
nationally on the Pathfinder initiative's Steering Group and has
seconded a member of staff to the ODPM's market restructuring
team. All of the Pathfinder boards will have a Corporation representative.
Housing associations already deliver and manage
housing in some of the most deprived areas in the country. They
have considerable experience of working with others in complex
regeneration programmes and in providing management and maintenance
in difficult-to-manage areas. They will therefore often be best
placed to advise the Pathfinders and (via their own organisation
or, for example, through HRCssee below) establish how to
put Pathfinder strategies into practice in communities. In the
coming months we will be examining how to enable housing associations
to contribute to the Pathfinder initiative.
It will be important for the Pathfinders to
liaise with other regeneration initiatives in the same or neighbouring
areas, such as the New Deal for Communities and the Neighbourhood
Renewal Fund. Five key targets drive the neighbourhood renewal
strategy. One of these is "tackling poor housing and physical
environment". In this, the strategy recognises the importance
of good-quality housing. Indeed, the Government has set a target
of bringing all social housing up to a decent standard by 2010,
with a third of the improvement taking place by 2004and
over half of this will be in the most deprived areas.
Since local strategic partnerships will decide
how to use the Neighbourhood Renewal Fund it is important, particularly
when improving housing is an important part of neighbourhood renewal,
that local strategic partnerships involve housing associations.
In some areas associations are members of the partnership, in
others they feed in their views and expertise via housing sub-groups.
Associations may also help to deliver regeneration. Tenant involvement
will be a key element here and we are encouraging housing associations
to support tenants in playing an active role. Given the nature
of neighbourhood renewal, associations need to involve not just
their own tenants but possibly the tenants of other associations
and some owner-occupiers. Housing associations often know a good
deal about the communities in which they operate, and they may
already work closely with private landlords and home owners.
Last year we launched our Community, Training
and Enabling (CTE) programme. This offers grants to help communities
become involved in developing strategies for their areas. We expect
to see increased use of CTE grants to support communities involved
in the regeneration of deprived areas.
Neighbourhood wardens can make a big difference
in deprived neighbourhoods. The Neighbourhood Warden's Team, also
part of the Neighbourhood Renewal Unit, has allocated £18
million of government grants to 85 warden schemes across England
and Wales. Of these, 22 are involved with housing associations,
with 16 being specifically led by housing associations. The projects
are a mixture of patroller and super-caretaker warden schemes,
whose function is to prevent problems and respond to community
safety concerns in partnership with residents and key stakeholders.
Neighbourhood management in deprived areas requires
greater input from associations. An example of the range of work
carried out by an association working to turn round a deprived
area is that of Mosscare Housing in East Manchestersee
Annex 2. One of the difficulties facing associations taking on
such a role is finding the revenue funding to support capital
initiatives and provide the intensive on-site neighbourhood management
that is required.
As described above the Corporation uses its
Innovation and Good Practice (IGP) grants to fund projects that
identify issues affecting housing markets and propose solutions
to emerging problems. The IGP grant programme is also used to
pilot new ways of tackling the issues faced by deprived communities.
We have just published a Regeneration report as part of our bIGPicture
series pulling together some of this work and giving practical
advice. A copy is enclosed.
We have been piloting Housing Regeneration Companies
(HRCs) to deliver area regeneration with housing as a central
theme. A key aspect is to respond to the needs of all tenures,
in particular helping to find solutions to the problem of poor
private-sector stock. The initial evaluation of the pilots has
identified the advantages of having a joint venture organisation
which is seen to be independent of any one partner, and has recognised
that an HRC provides a focus for community involvement and for
attracting public and private sector finance. Factors contributing
to success include a strategic commitment by all partners, particularly
the local authority; funding to help the organisation start up
and to build an asset base; and a willingness by all partners
to co-operate in streamlining service delivery and asset ownership.
The evaluation also found that individual pilot HRCs benefited
from sharing experiences at regular meetings. We will consider
how the lessons learnt from the pilots can promote future good
practice. Annex 2 contains an example of the work carried out
by one of these HRCs to date.
We are also looking at how housing associations
can play a greater part in the wider agenda of regeneration and
neighbourhood renewal. We have been carrying out pilot programmes
of acquisition for demolition in areas in the North East, North
West, Merseyside and West Midlands. This is one of a series of
measures aimed at halting decline and aiding regeneration. A key
finding from the evaluation has been that these programmes work
best in areas where partial demolition is part of a wider regeneration
programme, rather than areas where wholesale clearance is needed.
The full evaluation, due in 2003, should show which combination
of measures is most effective in helping to turn areas around.
Other tools which could be used to help regenerate
areas include "gap funding" where grant is provided
to attract private developers to difficult areas; equity loans
for repairs/improvements to owner occupied stock; and providing
assistance for owner occupiers who need to move from a clearance
area to buy another property where the proceeds from the sale
of their home is insufficient to buy elsewhere. These are not
currently funded via the ADP but we are considering mechanisms
for doing so as part of our IGP work on regeneration.
Assessing the impact of our investment
We have recently introduced a programme of impact
assessments to help assess the effectiveness of our investment
decisions and to see if scheme objectives envisaged at the bid
stage are later achieved. The sort of scheme objectives identified
at bid stage can cover sustainability and regeneration, training
and employment or issues such as improving tenure mix and increasing
community integration and involvement. Our sustainability toolkit,
which helps associations to assess whether the schemes they are
bidding for are sustainable, provides a useful tool for identifying
scheme objectives wider than the provision of housing units.
Sixty impact assessments took place in 2001-02
as part of a pilot programme. In general it was found that most
of the wider objectives set out when the association put forward
its bid were achieved. We intend the impact assessment programme
to inform future investment decisions by helping us to better
understand the factors that affect housing markets. For 2002-03
we are increasing the number of assessments to 90. We are also
considering whether we can group some impact assessments so that
we can assess the overall impact of several schemes in a particular
area. We expect to build on this process as the programme develops.
In general, however, it is worth noting that both associations
and local authorities found the process useful in helping them
review bids they had made or supported in previous years.