Select Committee on Office of the Deputy Prime Minister: Housing, Planning, Local Government and the Regions Written Evidence


Memorandum by Northern Edge (AH 12)

  Northern Edge is a partnership of four housing associations based in the North of England. It is the only housing association lead consortium to make it through to the finals of the Deputy Prime Minister's Design for Manufacture Competition. The associations involved are; Yorkshire Housing Group, Three Rivers Housing Group, Tees Valley Housing Group and South Yorkshire Housing Association.

1.  SCOPE TO PROMOTE GREATER HOME OWNERSHIP

  Northern Edge were announced as one of the nine stage-two winners of the Deputy Prime Minister's £60k home competition and the only housing association lead consortium to make it through to the finals of the Design for Manufacture competition. Throughout the competition, Northern Edge has embraced and produced "excellent" Eco Homes Standards using Modern Methods of Construction and adopted a "lower profit" ethos, whereby members undertake to provide a greater proportion of affordable homes for owner occupation by reinvesting profit to enable a range of equity sharing models across the development. The combination of producing Eco Homes which reduce fuel and cost of living bills, together with a range of shared equity schemes lies at the heart of truly affordable housing.

  As a housing association lead partnership, Northern Edge has benefited from participation in the 60k Home competition, both in terms of developing a range of cost effective sustainable modern homes and in gaining inroads into "competition" with the traditional private sector house builders. Northern Edge has the scope to open up major developments of mixed tenure (but primarily housing for sale) lead by housing associations. As the recent decision to open up SHG to private developers clearly has the potential to bring benefits, then surely the reverse must also apply. The development of Northern Edge's reduced profit model shows that it can be done.

  The opportunity, through the competition, to promote Northern Edge's Low Cost Home Ownership models and ethos which progress beyond conventional section 106 requirements has brought with it significant interest from outside of the Design for Manufacture competition.

  It is clear that through initiatives such as the Deputy Prime Minister's competition and the Hospital Sites Programme, English Partnerships are in a position to encourage development and innovative models of affordability by continuing to work with both the housing association sector and the "traditional" commercial housebuilders. As experts in affordable housing provision, it is essential that the housing association sector remain involved in the process as its members provide a natural conduit for the transition of dominant tenure from tenant to owner-occupier.

2.  THE ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL IMPACT OF CURRENT HOUSE PRICES

  As housing associations, the members of Northern Edge have direct experience and evidence of the impact on current house prices in terms of rising demand on our waiting lists and through allocations made through choice based lettings where we participate in such schemes.

  In parts of rural North Yorkshire in particular, where affordability ratios developed by Wilcox and others[12] are at their highest within the region, demand for social housing is augmented by relative low salaries paid to key workers and others. The sustainability of some communities is tested beyond endurance and can fall prey to skills migration as young people and families are forced to search elsewhere for more affordable housing. The promotion and development of affordable housing—across a range of tenures is at the heart of Northern Edge's business.

3.  OTHER FACTORS INFLUENCING THE AFFORDABILITY OF HOUSING FOR SALE INCLUDING CONSTRUCTION METHODS AND FISCAL MEASURES

  Again, the Design for Manufacture competition has helped highlight a key feature in the affordability equation. Construction costs must be addressed if we are to continue to offer practical solutions to the affordability crisis. By exploring the whole gamut of Modern Methods of Construction and by adopting lean production techniques, many of which are less reliant on the "traditional" skills of construction, the industry is able to circumvent the national shortage of labour skills.

4.  THE SCALE OF HOUSING DEVELOPMENT REQUIRED TO INFLUENCE HOUSE PRICES AND THE IMPACT OF PROMOTING SUCH A PROGRAMME ON THE NATURAL AND HISTORICAL ENVIRONMENT AND INFRASTRUCTURE PROVISION

  It is clear that house prices, like all others, respond directly to market characteristics. However, prices and affordability affect individuals before they affect markets. Communities have been suffering the consequences long before headlines and policy statements about soaring house prices reach policy makers and the media.

  Northern Edge is pioneering an approach to affordable for sale housing provision. Rather than concern with the scale of housing development and its effect on prices, we are directing attention towards the quality of housing and its effect on living costs.







12   Wilcox, S, Can Work Can't Buy, Joseph Rowntree Foundation, 2003. Bramley, G and Kofi Karley, N, How Much Extra Affordable Housing is Needed in England?, Housing Studies, Vol 20, September 2005. Back


 
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