Blog: In a post pandemic world, partnership working is key to delivering new homes and improving lives in Oldham
“Working with Oldham Council and other partners is central to increasing supply of much needed-homes in Oldham post-Covid,” says Joel Owen, our Director of Development.
As the country moves towards a new normal, we have launched a new development strategy with planned growth. We have ambitions to deliver 750 high quality, affordable new homes in Oldham and surrounding areas by 2026 and see partnering with Oldham Council, as well as other key stakeholders across the borough, as a key part of our expansion plans.
“By maximising our combined resources, we can step up the delivery of much needed affordable homes in our communities and help our borough build a stronger future,” explains Joel.
“Results of our recent customer perception survey are shaping plans to improve our neighbourhoods and homes. Customer feedback will inform our future direction and services, from what kinds of properties we build and where, to levels of investment in our homes, to managing green spaces, increasing sustainability and much more besides. Oldham Council also recently launched a survey to find out what residents want as we emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic. The results showed that the three most important things for local people are prioritising those in most need, creating safe and decent homes for everyone and providing easy access to parks and open spaces for people. As a key stakeholder in Oldham with approximately 58% of the total social housing stock, we want to play an active role in the borough’s recovery, and we have strong foundations on which we can work with our partners to build affordable and resilient neighbourhoods.”
As is the case in many other parts of the country, demand for social housing in Oldham significantly outstrips supply and the pandemic has shown that increasing the number of affordable homes for people is more urgent than ever.
Cllr Hannah Roberts, Cabinet Member for Housing at Oldham Council, said: “As we emerge from the pandemic, the housing challenge we face is even greater than before. The numbers of people in housing need continues to grow, and despite efforts to supply new affordable homes, the pressure on social housing in Oldham continues.”
High levels of deprivation in our borough, combined with tough market conditions, difficult topography and challenging sites due to their historic use, all impact on the viability and deliverability of affordable housing here in Oldham. In addition, the last year has been undoubtedly challenging with the pandemic leading to site closures, new ways of working on sites to ensure social distancing, as well as reduced availability of materials. Yet despite these challenges, we have still delivered the vast majority of our in-year targets for starts-on-sites and completions.
“We know that by working together with Oldham Council we can overcome these barriers and achieve more for local people,” says Joel. “We are also looking at new ways of working to deliver our strategy. Whereas in the past we have focused on delivering new homes on our own land, now we’re actively looking to acquire land, land-led package deals, Section 106 units and explore partnerships/joint ventures. We are keen to hear from partners, developers, contractors, agents or local housing associations who want to join us in making a real difference to Oldham and the surrounding areas. We’re also working on the exemplar West Vale scheme and exploring modular development to bring forward new homes which integrate greater levels of sustainability.”
Cllr Roberts adds: “I welcome FCHO’s renewed commitment to Oldham and to working with Oldham Council to meet the housing needs of our residents, but it feels like we are fighting with one hand tied behind us in trying to meet the demand for homes at a social rent. We need a change in emphasis in government housing funding to be able to work effectively together to offer people the homes they need.”
Keeping up momentum on supply of new homes in Oldham will be a challenge, especially given the lasting impacts of the pandemic, but Joel says strengthening relationships and building new ones is the way forward, maximising our resources to help bridge the gaps in funding and overcome viability challenges:
“Improving lives through high quality, modern homes is what we’re all about and we believe working with Oldham Council and like-minded organisations around a shared set of targets is our route to achieving this.”
If you’d like to discuss opportunities for us to work together, do get in touch.