Housing and Social Justice
The hub of our delivery
We have a target of delivering 50,000 affordable homes in Scotland during the lifetime of this Parliament. That’s ambitious. Nowhere more so than in The Highland Council area, given its complex and demanding geography. Here the challenge is to approve 500-600 homes a year across 40 to 50 individual projects in an area bigger than Belgium. So how have we gone about it?
What we’ve done is to create a Highland Housing Hub with the council. The hub brings together our affordable housing delivery partners, as well as the essential parts of the council, to work towards a shared strategic vision: to deliver houses as well as identifying blockages and act to remove them.
We first got together in June 2016, and now the hub meets every Tuesday. Representatives from the council, housing associations, the Highland Housing Alliance and the Highland Small Communities Housing Trust meet, not just for a quick get-together, but for the whole day. While housing officials represent the core of these meetings, we’ve had representation from planning, NHS Highland, building control, roads, private developers and Scottish Water.
Every week we take minutes from the meeting and update a virtual noticeboard of ongoing or longer-term tasks. On a weekly actions board, we assign tasks to attendees. Problems with developments are resolved site-by-site and moved on, rather than parked until the next meeting. We agree actions for participants to return the following week with progress to report.
The hub has gained confidence and openness. We’re beginning to know and understand each other well and trust has been developed. The regular weekly task-based ethos is productive: individuals have to return and report on actions they’ve followed up.
We reviewed the process after six months, asking what five things the hub has done for us. We received this response, now pinned to the hub wall:
- Created a greater sense of single purpose focused on pulling resources/project delivery
- Provided an opportunity to shared experience/knowledge
- Greater understanding of challenges faced by others
- Presented a single housing development voice
- Promoted a spirit of “all for one and one for all”
The hub will continue to review how it works to ensure we’re managing the day to make best use of partners’ time and that the planning and timetabling remains effective.
Evidence suggests that the hub is making a difference in delivery. Spending in the area reached £32.9m for financial year 2016-17. In addition, major sites have been secured and we’ve jointly agreed a Strategic Housing Investment Plan, which gives everyone a collective target. This means more investment achieved, in the right places.
The complexity of housing development programmes means effective partnership and good communication is essential and the hub has contributed well. There are still sticking points and new hurdles as staffing is under pressure, especially within some areas of council services. There’s a strong desire to ensure effective contingency plans and succession planning. This will be the next stage. But in the meantime, projects are being delivered and the programme is much stronger than it was a year ago.
The Highlands, Islands and Moray team, Scottish Government