Meeting the Challenge of Housing Demands

Alex Pope
There is a constant challenge for councils to meet the government’s housing demands (up to one million new homes are predicted to be required by 2020 by the previous housing minister, Brandon Lewis) whilst ensuring they deliver what’s best for their local communities.

For some the challenge is available land, especially around cities and urban areas, for others its developing over greenfield sites which comes with its political issues and the challenge of ensuring infrastructure capacity. Increasingly councils are needing to look outside of the standard format and investigate the assets and pockets of land they have which a few years ago may not have been a consideration for development. 

Visualising these options, determining their viability and option appraisal requires specialist knowledge which often sits outside of a council estate team's remit. This is where Faithful+Gould's team can step-in, review the asset/land and provide an honest and unbiased report. Where a solution is viable we can and have taken it through from conception to completion, as we have done for Harlow District Council with unused garage sites.

With our in-house expertise and far reaching supply chain network Faithful+Gould assisted Harlow District Council move closer to their stretching targets in the provision of affordable housing.

Harlow District Council, like many local authorities, are responsible for the management of domestic garage sites across their region. Harlow have an ambition to reduce their management headache and drain on resources that the under-utilised, decaying garage sites create, along with eradicating an unwanted breeding ground for anti-social behaviour.

The Challenge

Usually located adjacent existing residential stock or sandwiched between green belt; these modest parcels of land are a challenge to develop. Many have restrictions to access, a limitation on the extent of development and with the planning legislation around new homes, present a significant challenge around provision for parking. The challenge was to turn the dilapidated and run down areas into much needed housing for local people and re-introduce a sense of community.

Challenges for Harlow involved trying to identify the value of any proposed development. This was in two forms, the financial value of the proposed asset, and the perceived value on the surrounding areas. The lack of clarity around value leads to poorly informed business case proposals and can often be the stumbling block for any development.

Resolution

Faithful+Gould engaged with local Architects as part of the design team, this was key to identifying what is important to Harlow and how the Council, Planners and residents of Harlow would wish to see any proposed development progress.

The scheme, completed in December 2015, saw 3 sites developed with a total of 18 new homes provided all occupied within 4 weeks of handover. The project was recently recognised at the LABC 2016 East Anglia Awards ceremony under the category: Best social or affordable housing development of the year.

The Pathfinder project was an illustration of how to meet the ever-growing housing demand in the social and affordable sectors...

Faithful+Gould offered our client a single point of contact, a single contract of appointment, a single point of escalation but with the support and network of a heavily engaged design team. We were able to offer advice at an initial strategic level to support the business case behind which of the available sites were best placed to proceed. We procure and deliver, all required planning surveys demanding the best value for Harlow. Our significant pedigree in cost management meant that our client received the very best in cost estimating to support the allocation of their budgets and inform their procurement team about contract selection and tender evaluation criteria.

Faithful+Gould are now once again, supporting the development appraisal stage across further sites, advising on construction cost, risk management and implementation strategies to grow client’s portfolios with a range of ventures including minimal outlay.

The Pathfinder project was an illustration of how to meet the ever-growing housing demand in the social and affordable sectors whilst addressing political and social challenges of under used garage sites that are no longer fit for purpose. Faithful+Gould have demonstrated once again that we have the capability and capacity to achieve success for our clients and in this instance exceed expectations: "The Faithful+Gould team have surpassed our expectations on this project. They have done an excellent job identifying and forming a collaborative multi-disciplinary team which has resulted in smooth and exemplar projects in difficult circumstances. I would be happy to recommend them and also work with them again." – J. Greer, Harlow Council

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