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Housing crisis needs 'Partnerships for Schools' agency, says Arcadis

16 November 2015

Hyde Housing Association is building 204 homes in the fourth block at Kender Triangle, New Cross, London

Construction consultancy Arcadis is floating the idea of a new national agency that would take the “big picture” overview of the UK’s housing needs and combine the resources of public and private sectors to deliver net additional homes.

The National Housing Service (NHS) would be able to transfer resources nationally, by recycling the surplus from private sales at completed schemes to develop more homes elsewhere. 

As more surpluses are generated, and revenues gained from rental properties, the NHS would repay borrowing and offer private sector stakeholders a return on investment.

The idea is the focal point of a new report published by Arcadis today, called The Big Idea: Solving the Housing Crisis.

The number of additional homes built (above today’s output of around 140,000 homes a year) would step up year on year – Arcadis models that in year five it could deliver 15,000 homes, reaching reaching 65,000 homes a year in year 13.

Working with local authorities, public sector agencies and private house builders, the new agency would also use its market intelligence to build “the right homes in the right place for the right people” – helping to create new forms of tenure, high-quality design and direct development to areas of rising demand.

While the Homes and Communities Agency would continue to channel public funding to housing associations, the new NHS would raise and manage funds from private sector investors seeking to invest in public-private projects. 

But by aggregating demand, it would also be able to champion new, modern methods of construction and offsite fabrication, giving innovative companies a secure future pipeline.

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Simon Light, UK client development director at Arcadis, said that the report’s central argument was that the private sector alone was incapable of responding to national housing needs.

“The private sector has a lot of capacity but it is not the solution, they have no incentive to increase supply beyond a certain point. A strong, public-private partnership is the only solution we see to boosting housing capacity and deliver an additional 1.5 million homes in the UK and impact on GDP growth.

“We need different tenure types for a changing and ageing population, and we need to tackle affordability and the skills crisis. It’s a perfect storm, so it’s the right time to bring a new idea to the market."  

Mark Cleverly, partner at Arcadis, added: “There is a precedent for this with schools, with Partnerships for Schools and later the Education Funding Agency. Also, the apolitical nature of this is really important, as you go through government cycles, it should be influenced by party policies – it should be like the new National Infrastructure Commission.

“The NHS would also have a clear view of where social housing needs to be replaced because it’s coming to the end of life, and it would also look at where demand is likely to get worse – it would enable a faster, more joined up response.”

Arcadis says that it has road-tested the NHS idea with a number of local authorities and house-builders, with positive responses. It is now hoping to present the idea to housing minister Brandon Lewis and officials at DCLG. 

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