Boroughs launch training academy for staff ‘building next generation of council housing’

Boroughs launch training academy for staff ‘building next generation of council housing’

London boroughs have launched a Housing Development Academy with backing from the Mayor of London to boost council housebuilding and help tackle the capital’s homelessness crisis.

Believed to be the first collaboration of its kind between local authorities in the UK, the academy will help ensure London has the skills required to deliver council-built homes in even larger numbers.

In the face of London’s severe housing pressures, boroughs are playing a key role in driving up delivery of affordable homes — including through building new council housing for their communities. Council housebuilding is at its highest level since the 1970s, with more than 5,000 new council-built homes started in London last year — more than the rest of the country combined.

The Housing Development Academy will support this ambitious housebuilding agenda by offering short courses on the skills needed to build more homes, from the initial site analysis techniques through to the financial appraisals and commercial assessments required for large-scale investment.

Set up by the London Housing Directors’ Group with the support of London Councils and grant funding from the Greater London Authority, the academy’s training programmes are delivered by Future of London, the capital’s leadership and networking organisation for the built environment.

The training is open to staff from local authorities, housing associations, and for-profit developers — but with priority given to London boroughs.

Although local authorities were major housebuilders for much of the 20th Century — delivering hundreds of thousands of new council homes each year across the UK — their role declined significantly from the 1980s onwards as a result of central government policy. By 1993 council housebuilding had practically ended and local authorities’ housing development skills and expertise were much depleted.

With renewed flexibilities to enable council housebuilding in recent years, London boroughs are determined to strengthen their capacity as housing developers and deliver a new generation of council housing. The academy will enable staff from London and further afield to train alongside each other, to learn from real-life scenarios, and to acquire the skills needed for ramping up delivery.

Cllr Darren Rodwell, London Councils’ Executive Member for Regeneration, Housing & Planning, said: “Boroughs are proud to be building the next generation of council homes across the capital.

“We’re determined to give more Londoners the opportunity to live in affordable, high-quality homes. That means building more council housing, as boroughs were able to do in previous decades. This is vital for our vision of London as a fair, economically dynamic and environmentally sustainable city.

“The Housing Development Academy will play a pivotal role in making sure London has the skills required to deliver the council-built homes our communities are crying out for.”

Joanne Drew, Co-Chair of the London Housing Directors’ Group, commented: “Boosting delivery of new homes is essential for tackling London’s chronic shortage of affordable housing.

“Through the Housing Development Academy, council staff will strengthen their skills while sharing experience and learning from each other’s work.  It’s a great example of boroughs collaborating to support our collective capacity as housebuilders and to take on one of the most significant challenges facing the capital.”

Nicola Mathers, Chief Executive of Future of London, said: “Future of London is proud to be delivering this important collaborative project with London boroughs. The initiative is providing high-quality training, which will equip local authority housing practitioners with the skills they need to build more homes. 

“Accelerating the delivery of genuinely affordable rented homes is crucial to London’s social and economic sustainability. That’s why we are delighted to be working with local authorities to make that happen.”

Tom Copley, London’s Deputy Mayor for Housing and Residential Development, said: “City Hall has led a renaissance in council homebuilding, with council-led delivery last year hitting the highest level since the 1970s.

“Ensuring that councils have the right specialist skills to continue to deliver affordable homes in the face of budget cutbacks is crucial to achieving a fairer and more equal London for all.

“The Mayor and I are proud to be funding London Councils to launch the Housing Development Academy, delivered by the Future of London. The academy will support councils in building on their skills to continue delivering high-quality, genuinely affordable homes Londoners deserve.”

London’s homelessness crisis is the most severe in the country, with London Councils’ latest analysis suggesting 166,000 homeless Londoners — including 81,000 children — are currently living in temporary accommodation arranged by their local borough. London accounts for almost two-thirds of England’s temporary accommodation population, with Shelter estimating that one in 58 Londoners is homeless. Collectively, London boroughs have more than 300,000 on their housing waiting lists.

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