North Devon District Council - Affordable housing supply

The council has anecdotal evidence of a growing group of people with restricted access to current affordable housing. It felt that some of this group is becoming ineligible for housing due to a range of sometimes complex issues and are often displaced as homeless or forced to live in poor quality private accommodation.

The council wishes to support this vulnerable group through the delivery of affordable housing at social rent levels with an element of support. Altair undertook a piece of research and appraised the current affordable housing environment and what might be required to address any identified gaps in terms of drivers, scale, funding and tenure. The report also considered how the council could structure a delivery vehicle to build and procure new homes.   

The challenge

Formulating a robust and evidenced-based proposal for the council to start developing based on a current understanding of the national and local affordable housing markets and context.

The solution

The production of a clearly evidenced report that:

  • highlighted the key challenges to accessing current housing supply and to developing new affordable housing, drawing on evidence collated by North Devon Council, discussions with local registered providers and informed from a national perspective  
  • within the context of North Devon Council’s aspiration to deliver social rent housing, appraised the variance options for housing delivery and recommended the most appropriate route for local authority delivery   
  • provided a high-level ‘outline’ development programme that can be used to refine future strategic thinking and associated business cases, business plans and financial modelling, as appropriate.

The impact

Direct intervention by the council would help to provide much needed homes for people in acute housing need, even at relatively modest levels. Developing and managing new affordable homes would help the council to alleviate the current issues faced by people with restricted access to current affordable housing provision in a relatively timely way and help mitigate against future risk of the current challenges deteriorating further. Registered providers certainly remain a vital part of the local solution in terms of the provision of housing for those in need, but there could be a clear role for the council as well.

How is the new approach being sustained?

If the recommended options are progressed by the council, the detailed development assumptions such as programme size, delivery method, tenure and unit type mixes, funding, and target areas for development are all key considerations that will need to be considered in further detail while formulating strategic objectives and draft business plans.

The report has generated further ideas around housing procurement that will, alongside a presentation from Altair, be presented to members at committee in October. The local authority is also planning to submit a further bid to the LGA Housing Advisers Programme 2019-20 to explore this specific approach to housing procurement further and to outline a detailed action plan. The key aim for the council will be to formulate a sustainable and financially viable programme. 

Lessons learned

How a national perspective, development and financial modelling expertise and understanding of the wider housing market can be combined with a detailed local perspective to develop a well evidenced and balanced report and options appraisal.