Timely reminders this week, as if we need it, of the pressures now on Councils to deliver much needed affordable housing, 100 years after the #AddisonAct first created “homes fit for heroes”.
But time and again my conversations with local authority clients aspiring to deliver housing at pace and scale are dominated not by a lack of political intent, policy, assets or funding, but by a growing realisation that they face major constraints with accessing the capacity, experience and expertise necessary to implement effectively.
All models for delivery must be explored; there is no "one size fits all" approach. Objectives have to be thoroughly examined, parameters for investment and delivery tested, development economics robustly assessed, whilst Councils also have to be honest with themselves as to whether a political response to housing delivery is in fact the most effective method for delivering outcomes. Too often we see a lurch one way or another.
At the same time there are shining examples of how resilient long-term planning and investment through the stresses and strain of political cycles can lead to impressive outcomes. Look no further than London Borough of Hackney where it's taken years of dedicated, consistent and coherent investment to build a proper housing delivery programme.
The consultancy industry also has a major part to play, not just in guiding Councils with honest, robust and sometimes uncomfortable advice, but also in organising ourselves better around the problem. At the core, I believe is a need for more coherent partnership working across disciplines and companies, ensuring the right advice is tuned in at the right times. We are all trying to break new ground here, so consultants have to be prepared to say "I don't know the answer, but I know someone who does".
The housing crisis – which results from the marginalisation and chronic decline of social housing since the 1980s – is a reminder that the lessons of the Addison Act are not merely historical: its ideals, objectives and means remain as relevant today as ever.