Opinion piece: Investing in a long-term future for affordable homes

Jonathan Layzell, Stonewater’s Executive Director for Development, debates the need for long-term investment in affordable homes so the UK can ‘Build Back Better’.

Jonathan Layzell

I was delighted to join the Minister for Housing, the Rt Hon Chris Pincher, and representatives from across the sector to discuss the government’s housebuilding ambitions at the recent Conservative Spring Forum.

As invited panellists on the online discussion, we explored the role of institutional investment in affordable housing as part of the UK’s pledge to ‘Build Back Better’. We covered subjects such as Modern Methods of Construction (MMC), net zero carbon targets and shared ownership.

I was keen to emphasise that investment must be long term, enabling housing associations to provide homes across a range of tenures, and that collaboration is crucial to achieving the government’s aspirations.

At Stonewater, we understand the necessity of working closely with a range of partners in order to tackle the national housing crisis and help realise our plans to build at least 1,500 new homes every year.

In fact, Stonewater is part of the largest Homes England strategic partnership, alongside Guinness Partnership, which aims to build 4,500 more affordable homes. We are also the largest management partner for Legal & General Affordable Homes, one of the most prominent for-profit Registered Providers.

Time for change

At last week’s party conference, I spoke of our work with Legal & General to harness their financial capacity, alongside Stonewater’s management capacity and national spread, to build more homes. Through this partnership, we are also seeking to ‘build green’ and minimise our carbon footprint, as well as delivering outstanding customer service – all core government aims.

I also described how we have embraced the use of MMC to deliver large-scale developments and how our experience demonstrates a compelling case for this approach in terms of build quality, health and safety, and speed of delivery.

However, I made the point that planning reform is necessary to ensure MMC manufacturing capacity translates into rapid delivery of housing on the ground.

Alongside such planning changes, I argued that we must have long-term government commitment in terms of both the rent regime and capital funding. This investment will allow registered providers to take a more pragmatic approach to tenure, so we can build at greater scale and provide a wider mix of properties which will better meet local housing requirements.

The forum provided a welcome opportunity to get some important points across to our policy makers. My take-home message to the minister was that new housing of all tenures is very much a force for good. As well as its positive impact on communities, a housing boom will help drive the post-Covid economic and social recovery that our country so desperately needs.