Housing Delivery Partnerships – key themes
Trowers & Hamlins launched our latest thought leadership piece at the end of last year – Housing Delivery Partnerships – removing barriers through collaboration.
Housing Delivery Partnerships (HDPs) are certainly a hot topic and our report is part of a range of literature currently circulating, including the Building Bridges produced by CIH and Vivid (amongst others) and the Future of London briefing – Making Housing Delivery Models Work for London.
HDPs are not new; partnerships of one form or another have been around for years, but whilst individual projects have enjoyed success, HDPs have failed to deliver the numbers of homes that potentially they could. In our report we have sought to identify some of the barriers to HDPs delivering on a large scale, and how the public and private sectors can work together in partnership to deliver housing and related community assets.
We have hosted round table discussions attended by a mix of local authorities, private developers, housing associations and investors. We have also carried out a series of research interviews with participants in successful partnering projects to assess what worked well and what they would look to change in the future.
It's interesting to note that some of the same themes came over time and time again – seemingly participants from all sectors agreeing on the 'hurdles' if not always the solutions!
A number of key themes emerged:
Choose the right form of partnership
A HDP does not have to be a full blown corporate vehicle, and choice of model should not be driven by what is fashionable. Take time to choose a form of partnership that compliments the specifics of the relationship and product. We have identified in the report a number of key questions which we believe potential partners should consider and which will help inform both the choice of partner and choice of delivery model/partnership.
Shared values and objectives
These are key to a successful partnership, particularly one which may run for many years. That does not mean that all partners have the same drivers and return requirements, but that there is commonality of underlying vision and purpose.
The importance of trust and selecting a compatible partner
Legal agreements can only take you so far. Where two or more parties come together to deliver a long term plan – whether as a corporate joint venture or a contractual collaboration – it is easy to focus on getting to the start of the process – getting the initial funding and legal structures in place. This is important but the real delivery challenge comes during the operational phase where contrasting cultural approaches and a lack of trust can lead to discord. A collaborative approach from all parties will be key to working through the varying challenges which arise over a sustained time period.
Flexibility in approach
This was the most consistent message from all sectors we spoke to. In long term HDPs the ability to work together to deal with changes in the wider economic environment as well as the local market are essential. A clear plan at the outset is important but combined with a recognition from all parties that there are circumstances which may trigger the need look afresh at approach – which can particularly be a challenge in procurement terms.
The importance of open and regular dialogue
There will be challenges in the life of any HDP and strong relationships are built on open discussion. Partners should not seek to exercise control, and decision should be reached through dialogue and open discussion.
The challenge of the procurement regulations
Additionally, the acknowledgement that a lengthy and competitive procurement process will not necessarily result in the best partnership. If a formal procurement process is required, it is important that this is as efficient as possible and as an "eye" on the wider and long term objective, so that the selected partner is not left disheartened and is still minded to work in partnership. HDPs are increasingly looking for "procurement light" models.
Any true partnership sees the partners sharing in the risk and reward
It is an obvious point, but participants must play their fair part in the partnership. A partnership is not a 'partnership' where one party carries all the risk. Each party should play to their own strengths and rely upon and utilise the strengths and skills of their partners.
The end product must fit for purpose
Sight of that must not be lost through any partnership relationship. It is the end product which ultimately drives return and so the partners must get that right, approaching with an open mind, the suggestions made by partners who may have greater experience in a particular field.
The case studies in our report highlight how some of these themes have played out in practice. They are proof the challenges can be overcome and when they are, much needed homes are delivered.
Whilst there are certainly challenges, what has come out of the research is the interest, from all sectors, in 'partnership working', particularly drawing in the public sectors, for example local authorities, the devolved administrations, and increasingly the likes of the NHS. There is huge potential for delivery if organisations can successfully combine skills and resources with these public bodies.