The implications of the Covid 19 crisis on development programmes for the affordable housing sector are starting to sink in…
For current projects, sites have, in the main, closed and new projects and programmes have been, at best, disrupted and stalled. Alongside this, the uncertainty over future housing market conditions is growing rapidly and who knows how many contractors and supply chain companies will be adversely affected to a point that they don’t recover.
All this just weeks after the new government committed to increasing resources to deliver more new affordable homes through the next round of Homes England funding programmes.
It feels like desperate times for all… but there are ways housing associations and developing local authorities can prepare their future development activity now, despite the uncertainty.
Never has it felt more apparent that we should ask the question – What can we do better? From the perspective of affordable housing delivery, maybe the question should be – How can we deliver better housing outcomes in the UK when pressures on affordable housing are likely to be greater than ever?
Using your development team resources effectively during the next few months will be crucial. There is plenty we can do to prepare our resources and make best use of any slowdown in day to day activity
Plan workloads for teams that make the most of opportunities for ‘online’ working. Here are some thoughts on key themes that may help you engage staff time usefully and also gain really positive outcomes when our world starts to return to some normality.
Five themes to consider:
- Be realistic about what will be required of your development resources in the coming months and years. We will all face some new challenges. For many, this could be the first-time staff are dealing with significant and unexpected project delays, cost overruns, contractors in financial difficulty and viability/funding issues for existing projects. Have you got the right resources available to deal with these two very different challenges?
a) Resolving issues around the current programme, and
b) Making the commercial decisions in respect of new opportunities that will undoubtedly emerge from this crisis.
2. Examine your approach to new business and make it ‘fit for purpose’ in the market that will emerge from this crisis. Your existing Growth Strategy/Development Strategy will undoubtedly need to change – consider a range of scenarios and be prepared for the emerging constraints and opportunities.
3. Use this time to train your staff. Many of us had anticipated a growth in development activity and there has been a real effort by many housing associations and local authorities to recruit new staff given the skills gap in our sector for development and project managers. Why not use this time to place staff on suitable training courses, many of which can be completed effectively through online training and support, such as the BHPA development training academy example, or the LiveWest development skills training course.
- Doing development ‘right’ – get your compliance and development procedures At busy times, we often find it difficult to reflect on how we do things. Why not review your overall development procedures and ensure they are ‘fit for purpose’? Do you have a comprehensive set of procedures in place already? Do they need updating or reviewing?
- Time for a ‘health check’? – The world has changed. We all have processes and ways of working that need to evolve and change over time. Why not commission a ‘health check’ at this time – get your approach to development right over the coming weeks to be positioned to play the best role you can to contribute to the delivery of an effective and much needed affordable homes programme in the UK. Your review should cover a full range of topics, including, for example:
- Development/ Growth Strategy
- Skills and resources
- Compliance and procedure issues
- Approach to new business
- Funding and capacity
- Staff training
- Reporting and approval
For an outline of what we would recommend you include in a ‘development health check’ review, please contact me and I will happily provide more detailed recommendations.
I hope these reflections are helpful. If you would like to contact me to explore any of these points in more detail, please do not hesitate to get in touch.
I wish you all well
Project Development Workshop Ltd
M: 07775 883000