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HCA to bridge industry's gap in social housing knowledge

Builders are ignoring lucrative opportunities in social housing because they cannot understand how the sector works, the Homes and Communities Agency has admitted.

Its deputy chief executive Richard Hill told a 100-strong summit of builders and housing associations on Wednesday that the agency wanted act as a “bridge” to improve relations between associations and the construction industry.

And he pledged that if builders joined with the HCA to deliver the government’s target of 15-20 per cent construction efficiency savings, the money released would be used to build more homes for the same amount of public money.

Mr Hill promised: “Where efficiencies are found we will not claw back grant. Across the sector and industry there is recognition that we can build more efficiently and that the rewards are large.”

He said the HCA would provide the industry with “a bridge into the social housing sector – whose size and diversity can seem complex and hard to deal with”.

HCA head of existing stock Michael Clegg told Construction News: “We have the impression that the housing sector is not as well understood in the construction industry as areas like schools and hospitals, where there are a limited number of clients and they all work the same way.

“There is a great diversity in social housing and our sense is that the industry might know one or two housing associations but does not have a sense of what the totality of the size of the prize is, and no sense of the value of the work available through the sector.”

Mr Clegg said the HCA feared construction innovators did not see social housing as a target audience because, “it is seen as complex, and the cost of getting to know the sector can seem prohibitive”.

The HCA wants to put its relationship with the industry on the same close footing as that with housing associations, he added.

Signalling government support for the HCA’s approach, Department for Business Innovation and Skills chief construction advisor Paul Morrell told the summit: “At its best the UK construction industry is world class, and we need to bring its best thinking to bear and unlock its full potential for innovation to increase output affordably.”

Mr Hill warned delegates that the sector would only secure enough public money in the next Treasury spending round if it delivered the Government efficiency savings target.

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