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North-west housing group ForViva Group launches development arm alongside in-house contractor

North-west based ForViva Group is to expand its development activites and its in-house contractor in a bid to build more homes in the region.

ForViva director of investment and regeneration Nigel Sedman said the group wants to develop 1,500 properties though to 2018 under its current construction programme.

The group, which was formed in 2013, is made up of two housing associations: City West Housing Trust, which has 14,800 properties based in Salford; and Villages Housing Association, which has 2,800 properties in Oldham and in Knowsley, Liverpool.

In-house contractor ForWorks and newly launched development arm ForLiving are also part of the group.

Mr Sedman told Construction News that ForViva was taking a “three-pronged approach” to growth.

He said the group had a portfolio of projects on site, which included affordable rent, shared ownership, and outright sale.

“We have got a programme put together now that looks at market rent properties, which makes up a significant part of ForLiving’s [projects].”

ForLiving might either purchase “off the shelf”, in terms of outright sale or market rent, or would develop its own projects, either using external contractors or its in-house contractor, ForWorks.

Revenue from ForWorks and ForLiving would then be channelled back into the ForViva Group to fund affordable homes, Mr Sedman said.

The housing association has rolled out the model to tackle a downturn in investment funding, particularly from HCA grants, and the additional pressure from government changes to rent controls and the extension of Right to Buy.

ForWorks was formerly classed as an in-house DLO (direct labour organisation) but became a separate limited company in 2013.

The contractor has recently finished its first development scheme for the group, a 19-home project, and Mr Sedman said he had ambitions to grow the firm beyond its traditional remit as a responsive repairs contractor.

“One of the reasons we’ve set it up as it is, is that we want it to actually go out there and grow, and bring in income from other clients, and the income that it makes from that can be used for building new homes.

“And if those can be built internally by ForWorks, that’s great.”

He admitted that ForWorks “wouldn’t be suitable right away” for some of the group’s larger projects, particularly within its new ForLiving business but he has ambitions to grow the business so it could deliver larger scale schemes not just in-house but for other clients.

“If they’re delivering significant schemes for us, then they’d be in a position to deliver those for other clients as well,” he said.

At present, projects of up to 50 units would be “no problem” for the group’s in-house contractor, according to Mr Sedman.

He added that there would still be opportunities for other firms to win work from ForViva and ForLiving, in spite of the growth of ForWorks, particularly for contractors with specialist skills.

“We wouldn’t blindly use ForWorks if they weren’t delivering value for money, so we do benchmark them against other contractors, particularly for investment works,” he said.

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