An opportunity to join forces and provide sought after homes in the Midlands
Devolution provides an opportunity for a step change in the provision of housing, but housing associations across the West Midlands must join forces and speak with one voice if it is to support the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) to deliver much-needed new homes and help drive economic growth as Midland Heart’s chief executive, Ruth Cooke, explains
THE devolution of power to enable local authorities to make decisions affecting the whole region brings opportunity but also responsibility.
The creation of the WMCA earlier this year brings together local authorities and three local enterprise partnerships – each retaining their own individual identity but coming together to make decisions which will positively affect the area - and organisations like ourselves must respond in kind.
Whilst the WMCA is still in its infancy, the fact remains that a balanced and thriving economy needs a balanced and thriving housing market.
This is why Midland Heart is one of the founder members of the West Midlands Housing Association Partnership (WMHAP), working closely with the National Housing Federation.
Like the WMCA, WMHAP’s interest is anchored in the West Midlands and whilst each individual housing association retains its own identity and priorities, we are united in our drive to provide social and economic solutions through housing and other related activities.
Adding £600m to the local economy, employing over 18,000 people and providing 120,000 homes, the WMHAP is keen to start a dialogue with the WMCA to look at how we can do things differently and address the challenge of delivering more housing and public services within a reduced fiscal environment.
Creating an economy where people want to live and work is essential. Midland Heart’s specific challenge is to support people to live independently including the older generation and homeless, and our partners will have similar priorities.
However, we all believe that having one voice is stronger and supports mutual objectives.
The WMCA need to create the right economic conditions to facilitate accelerated housing in the area which entices house builders to invest in the region, in other words an investible proposition. The launch of the West Midlands Land Commission earlier this month is a step in the right direction.
Tasked with unlocking undeveloped land for both commercial and residential development, the WMHAP aims to work closely with the Land Commission to ensure it has access to local knowledge and understands the region’s housing need. It is not just about house building but ensuring the West Midlands’ diverse population remains front of mind.
By combining efforts both the aspirations of the WMCA and WMHAP can be met to deliver a thriving local economy businesses want to invest in.
Devolution has presented us with a fresh opportunity but it needs proactive, collective organisations to simplify the decision-making process.
Housing associations have always provided housing along with other public services, and further reductions in funding means we have to work smarter and more efficiently to deliver those services in the future.
We have the skills and know-how to help the WMCA contribute towards its housing target. We need to grasp the opportunity and work together to deliver not just bricks and mortar but also help drive social change, providing employment and supported housing solutions to the table.