Gareth Bradford gave a brief introduction to the principles behind the proposal for an Affordable Housing Delivery Vehicle and on the work with partners on its creation to unlock challenging brownfield opportunities. He advised that Kevin Rodgers from the West Midlands Housing Association Partnership had been involved closely with the work on this matter and whilst he could not be present at this meeting, he had requested that the Board be notified that he supported the contents of the report and the approach proposed and the positive working between WMCA and WMHAP.
Rob Lamond presented the report which provided an update on progress in developing an Affordable Housing Delivery Vehicle with a number of Registered Providers operating in the West Midlands. He reminded the Board that the key purpose was to create a dedicated vehicle to unlock challenging brownfield opportunities in the region by the Housing Associations working with the WMCA which would not come forwards through other means thus providing real added value to the work of the WMCA under the Single Commissioning Framework, local housing partnerships, Homes England and local authorities on affordable housing delivery. He reported that a draft Memorandum of Understanding between the parties was being prepared and the Heads of Terms document for the vehicle was at an advanced stage and would be submitted to a future meeting for approval together with a detailed Business Case. He advised on the establishment of an internal Working Group at the WMCA including representatives from finance, legal and procurement to ensure that the appropriate governance measures were in place. Rob Lamond also set out some of the key next steps for seeking Board approval in June and launch in September.
Councillor Ian Courts welcomed the progress being made. He requested information on the type of projects which would be included. He asked what the Delivery Vehicle would achieve that individual Registered Providers could not deliver and whether there would be cases of partners, as seen historically in this sector, being unwilling to share their ideas on innovation. Rob Lamond explained that the proposed Delivery Vehicle would bring together the expertise and capacity of partners with different ways of unlocking difficult sites being considered and the opportunity to share risk. In relation to sharing examples of innovation, this would be based on mutual trust and a collaborative approach that had been developed between the partners. He advised that in future, subject to the success of such a vehicle, there could also be the opportunity for other public and private sector organisations to participate in the work of the Delivery Vehicle. The Chair commented that the Delivery Vehicle has the potential to play a key role in brownfield regeneration and supporting our post-Covid 19 Housing and Land Plan.
Councillor Jacqueline Sweetman opened her remarks by thanking the Chair and the Board for the earlier tribute to her erstwhile colleague, Councillor Peter Bilson. She referred to the 30% of income levels measure within the definition of affordable units and advised that in the Wolverhampton area the rental levels involved in meeting this definition would be above the local housing allowance and thus unaffordable to local people. Rob Lamond offered to provide Councillor Sweetman with further background papers on this matter as this local interpretation of the definition was critical to its formulation and endorsement by the Board. The Chair commented that the difficulties raised were acknowledged and precisely the reason which led to a more granular definition than the national affordable housing definition. He asked officials to keep progress under review and report back to the Board accordingly given this was a first attempt at defining ‘affordability’ at a regional level related to local incomes rather than house prices. The differences in rental levels and affordability across the region had been raised in previous meetings.
Sarah Middleton referred to the outcomes detailed in paragraph 3.2 of the report and of the need to make specific reference to the economy recovery phase following the current Covid-19 pandemic. It would be necessary to think collectively on how the implications arising upon the Covid-19 pandemic were to be responded to and that this would include all of the Boards’ workstreams. Sarah Middleton commended the partnership approach detailed in the report.
Gareth Bradford gave a quick update on the broader regional recovery planning work and sought the Board’s steer on refining and amending the projects and programmes of work in the agreed Housing and Land Portfolio Business Plan in light of Covid-19. A Working Group under the Delivery Steering Group had been recently established to develop this work collectively. The Board sought the preparation of a Covid-19 Housing and Land Recovery Plan as a product of this work which should propose opportunities and interventions the Board could consider in line with the aims and objectives in the Business Plan. The Board requested regular updates on the impacts of Covid-19 and also the opportunities it might bring for delivering or further advancing the Portfolio’s Aims and Mission (for example in the fields of advanced manufacturing in construction and town centre regeneration).
1. That the strong progress that had been achieved collectively since the last meeting of the Board on creating a Collaborative Delivery Vehicle be noted;
2. That Councillor Jacqueline Sweetman be provided with additional information in relation to the regional affordable housing target for Affordable Units and the interrelationship with local housing allowance levels;
3. That the outcomes be amended to include specific reference to the economic recovery phase.
4. That the WMCA undertook to review the existing Housing and Land Business Plan and its key projects and programmes of work in light of the impacts of Covid-19 and develop a Covid-19 Housing and Land Recovery Plan proposing specific opportunities and interventions that the Board can consider for discussion at a future Board meeting.