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Why councils should sell themselves to the housebuilding industry

Why would you want to build homes in Stoke-on-Trent? Would you be wasting your train ticket or spotting an excellent business opportunity?

That’s what we asked on the Housing & Finance Institute’s Housing Business Ready programme we ran for the council.

Research shows that only a quarter of housebuilders see growth coming from outside their current area of operations.

Looking at just smaller builders, over half expect to record their growth in areas where they are already building.

So those councils that want to grow, build the right homes for their communities and attract the money and skills to support housing ambitions have to be able to sell their area.

“If we’re going to up our game in building the homes we need, then the timewasting has to stop”

They must show that they are ready for business, willing to attract new investors and prepared to make the case to housebuilders and developers.

Councils should also understand what they want and how they want to engage with business, as well as showing they are serious about turning the opportunity into reality for residents.

Wasted potential

Knowing the housing market needs of your area and what you can do to make housing delivery happen is at the heart of our work at the Housing & Finance Institute.

When Keith House and I undertook our Elphicke-House review for the government last year, we found that businesses and councils were wasting chances and wasting money.

They were either talking to the wrong people, lacked a clear strategy, or were failing to translate appetite into delivery.

If we’re going to up our game in building the homes we need, then the timewasting has to stop.

The recession is over. It is time to pull out the stops and get on with building, wherever homes are wanted or needed.

We also found that the best councils were attracting money, skills and builders by strong leadership in terms of housing.

“We found that businesses and councils were wasting chances and wasting money”

These authorities understood what their area needed and what role they could play to make it happen.

This might be land, development finance, a well-functioning planning team or promoting a strong jobs and growth policy.

These were councils which knew what they did mattered to their local communities and they knew how to make things happen.

They were councils that, quite simply, you would want to do business with.

Sell the area

At the Housing & Finance Institute, we want more councils to realise their ambitions for their areas and to have the confidence to promote, support and engage actively to bring forward more homes that are right for them.

We also want businesses to do their bit to clarify their strategy and deliver on what they say they will do.

Our programme said, “Sell me Stoke”, and they did it brilliantly.

We have a strong pipeline for the HFI Housing Business Ready programmes and want to see more councils come forward and make a great case for building the homes they want and need for their area.

Natalie Elphicke is the chief executive of the Housing & Finance Institute

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