Visionary Leadership in Housing
Delivering Housing Strategy through
Local Area Agreements
The CIH and the Improvement and Development Agency (IDeA) are pleased to have collaborated in
producing this Briefing Paper on Delivering Housing Strategy through Local Area Agreements.
Both organisations are committed to supporting the role of local authorities, local strategic partnerships and
other stakeholders in fulfilling strategic housing responsibilities in order to create sustainable and cohesive
The Communities and Local Government department (CLG) has supported both organisations to raise
awareness and improve practice in strategic housing, and the continuing support of government at national
level is recognised and valued.
Since the CIH and the Local Government Association launched Visionary Leadership in Housing: a new future
for local housing strategy, CLG has invested in a programme of national and regional support for local
authorities which will be delivered by the IDeA through its Strategic Housing Programme.
These initiatives serve both to influence and support the implementation of the local government white
paper Strong and Prosperous Communities published in October 2006. The place shaping role of local
authorities is a central concept of the local government white paper, and Local Area Agreements (LAAs) and
strategic housing functions are essential tools in creating good places for people to live.
Since LAAs were piloted and launched, every first tier local authority has had the opportunity, with its
partners, to explore new ways of delivering local priorities identified in its Sustainable Community Strategy.
Some areas have found innovative and creative ways of tackling housing issues, or have used housing
resources to address priorities across the LAA.
However, for many local authorities, the challenges involved in understanding and fulfilling their strategic
housing role are very real and made more so by the expectations placed on local government in Strong and
Prosperous Communities. The need to ensure that strategic plans make a difference to local people presents
particular challenges in two tier areas where county and district councils take on different roles in relation to
planning and housing. The opportunities to make more and better use of LAAs to work with local strategic
partnerships must be grasped.
We believe that, in demonstrating some of the useful practice that has already been developed, this paper is
an excellent first step on the road to improving local capacity to deliver sustainable communities.
David Butler Lucy de Groot
Visionary Leadership in Housing - developing the strategic housing role
In 2005 the CIH embarked on a programme of work to support development of the strategic housing
function of local authorities, and to increase the profile of this function at local, regional and national levels.
This programme started with Visionary Leadership in Housing: a new future for local housing strategy1, which
set out our vision for the future strategic function and for changes to the framework to support its delivery. In
2006 we staged a series of regional seminars, supported by CLG, the Housing Corporation and the Lyons
This short paper is designed to assist housing professionals and local authority elected members to be more
effective in the delivery of their strategic housing functions in the context of the frameworks emerging from
the local government white paper, Strong and Prosperous Communities, and the forthcoming Lyons Inquiry.
Local Area Agreements (LAAs) are now the principal means by which local strategic priorities are set and
delivered. The added value of LAAs is evident in many authorities where they have been employed effectively
to bring a closer focus on shared priorities, including those relating to housing, between partners at a local
level and where partners are beginning to think in more holistic ways and more strategically. The shared
commitment to action means there is a greater probability of plans being translated into action.2
The purpose of this paper is to assist the development of LAAs by highlighting some common problems with
representing housing fully within them and illustrating some approaches that local authorities have taken to
deal with this. It aims to persuade corporate policy-makers to appreciate the value of ensuring that housing is
properly represented within the LAA, and to encourage strategic housing professionals to find ways to
overcome real or perceived barriers to engaging in the LAA process. It provides case studies which
demonstrate how authorities have used LAAs to deliver a strategic approach to housing and how this can
help to achieve priority outcomes for a locality. It also begins to explore the skills required to do this
Who is this paper for?
For elected members
All authorities have housing challenges and all will have targets to meet to address these challenges. No
authority will be able to maximise the economic, environmental and social well being of their communities
without considering the role that housing can play in creating cohesive, sustainable communities. LAAs offer
a prime opportunity to integrate strategic housing outcomes with other authority-wide strategic functions
relating to regeneration, the environment, health, community development or education. This paper will be
helpful to elected members who want to understand how housing can play a full part in achieving their
For Local Strategic Partnerships
The primary partnership whose job it is to agree the LAA locally needs to be aware both of the need for
housing to be integrated and of the ways in which housing priorities might be articulated and acted on
through the LAA. They may need to be proactive in inviting relevant individuals with strategic responsibilities
to take part in the Local Strategic Partnership (LSP).
For local authority corporate decision-makers
Case studies in this paper demonstrate how setting priorities on housing contribute to wider strategic
objectives. Stronger linking of the strategic housing function to the Sustainable Community Strategy and
LAA should be encouraged, and ways to achieve this are illustrated here.
For partners of local authorities
The paper is useful for the range of partners that work with local authorities including housing associations,
developers, private landlords, voluntary organisations, regeneration companies who can support the delivery
of housing strategy.
1 Visionary Leadership in Housing – a new future for local housing strategy, CIH/LGA, Nov 2005. www.cih.org/publications
2 Local Area Agreements Research: Round 2 negotiations and early progress in round 1, CLG, October 2006
For housing professionals
Anecdotally, strategic housing professionals have struggled to participate effectively in the LAA partly
because of the speed of implementation making the process hurried and in some cases superficial in delivery
of strategic outcomes. This paper is intended to provide some ideas for improving engagement and, in doing
so, achieving important community outcomes.
What are Local Area Agreements?
A Local Area Agreement (LAA) is a three year agreement, refreshed annually, setting out a single set of
priorities and outcomes for a local area. Resources are allocated to an area on the basis of its LAA, therefore
making it a key delivery vehicle, central to driving action across a range of themes.
The local government white paper, Strong and Prosperous Communities3 established the principal that LAAs
should effectively be the delivery plan for local authorities’ Sustainable Community Strategies. It requires
county and unitary authorities, together with local partners, to prepare an LAA and to deliver against the
priorities it contains.
By April 2007 all upper tier authorities are required to have LAAs in place.
The primary objective of an LAA is to deliver genuinely sustainable communities through better outcomes for
LAAs also have a number of secondary objectives which are:
• improving central and local government relations;
• enhancing efficiency;
• strengthening partnership working;
• offering a framework within which local authorities can enhance their community leadership role.4
The outcomes are divided into four blocks:
1. Children and Young People;
2. Healthier Communities and Older People;
3. Safer and Stronger Communities;
4. Economic Development and Environment.4
The fourth block was previously ‘Economic Development’, but the addition of ‘Environment’ is proposed in
the local government white paper, Strong and Prosperous Communities.
The LAA includes both mandatory outcomes and indicators set by central government, and local outcomes
and indicators. They also now encompass Local Public Service Agreements (LPSAs) and stretch targets
attracting reward grant which are negotiated as part of the LAA. Stretch targets are the key targets for
improvement within an area that can only be met with the contribution of pump priming reward grant.
The local government white paper, Strong and Prosperous Communities, proposes that funding will be allocated
as a ‘single pot’ for all authorities, rather than being restricted within the four set blocks (from April 2009).
The themes will remain, however, as a framework to which local partners can relate and for the purpose of
organising negotiations. There will also be an expectation that funds should be spent on outcomes and
targets which closely relate to the original purpose of the grant stream.
3 Strong and Prosperous Communities, local government white paper, CLG, October 2006
4 Local Area Agreements Guidance: Round 3 and refresh of rounds 1 and 2, CLG, 31 March 2006
There have already been two pilot rounds, with 21 upper tier authorities agreeing their first LAAs in April
2005 and 66 authorities signing them off in April 2006. Both the purpose and the process have evolved
through these pilots. The emphasis in round one was on rationalising area based funding streams to reduce
administration and monitoring. Round two was more focused on local priorities and outcomes, although
exploring the feasibility and implications of pooling of funding streams to support these outcomes was also
In round one there were nine ‘single pot’ LAAs, in round two there were 18 and in round three, five
authorities have been identified as ‘single pot’.5 Extension of the ‘single pot’ allocation after round three will
allow greater flexibility to achieve outcomes and targets.
How the agreements are made
LAAs are agreed between central government, represented by the Government Office, and a local area,
represented by the county or unitary authority. Since the authority is the accountable body, the agreement is
signed by the authority on behalf of the locality’s Local Strategic Partnership (LSP).
The priorities and outcomes to be included within an LAA are developed by the upper tier (county/unitary/
London boroughs) LSP and will reflect the Sustainable Community Strategy. In two tier areas district
Sustainable Community Strategies should also be reflected. Experience to date suggests that the engagement
of districts in the process of development of the LAA is patchy. More work is needed to ensure these levels
are linked and that housing is effectively covered in the county’s Sustainable Community Strategy as well.
The local government white paper, Strong and Prosperous Communities, proposes to ensure the future
involvement of specific partners within the LSP by introducing a duty for a number of authorities and
agencies to cooperate in addition to the upper tier authority. Partners include, for example, district councils,
Police Authorities, NHS Trusts, Fire and Rescue Authorities, Highways Agency, National Parks Authorities,
Learning and Skills Councils and many more.
What is the local authority strategic housing function?
The strategic housing function of local authorities is in the process of being redefined.
Taking the lead from some of the more pioneering local authorities, the local government white paper Strong
and Prosperous Communities establishes the primary purpose of the strategic housing function as delivering
economic growth and prosperity. Going far beyond achieving purely housing outcomes, housing is also seen
as making an important contribution to both social and environmental objectives such as community
cohesion, reducing health inequalities and improving educational attainment. Operating strategically in
relation to housing is highly important for local authorities seeking to be ‘place shapers’ and to deliver
community well being.
‘Local authorities’ work in producing housing strategies
has been a lever for economic and social change in many
areas, reflecting a shift towards ensuring local housing
markets meet local demands, rather than a narrower
focus on directly providing social housing. This strategic
housing role is at the heart of achieving the social,
economic, and environmental objectives that shape a
community and create a sense of place.’ 6
5 List of single pot Local Area Agreements, CLG website
6 Strong and Prosperous Communities local government white paper, Section E,Volume 2, CLG, October 2006
Given its central role and the need for housing to be co-ordinated with other important strategies and
processes, it is no longer appropriate for housing strategy to be characterised by a stand-alone document. It
must be characterised by and expressed through a number of local documents. This includes other core
strategies, such as the Local Development Framework and Supporting People Strategy, as well as what might
be termed sub-strategies, such as strategies for lettings and to improve the private rented sector. The links
between housing and planning in particular need to be robust; housing market assessments are an important
element of common evidence that should underpin both housing and spatial strategies.7
If housing is to play its part in delivering community outcomes, then the aim must be for complete coherence
at the strategic level with local authorities’ Sustainable Community Strategies. While not all an authority’s
action relating to housing will be a corporate priority, those that are should be incorporated at the delivery
level in the LAA. LSPs which develop the Sustainable Community Strategies and LAA need to be kept well
informed about how action on housing and place-
making can help them deliver better
‘I want to see local authorities taking an increasingly
communities. powerful strategic role on housing. They are ideally
placed to take an overview – across all tenures using
their planning powers as well as housing policy to
‘…local authorities’ Housing and deliver mixed communities. And they are in the right
Homelessness strategies should be place to work with others including housing
incorporated within the unitary or district associations, regional housing and planning bodies, the
Sustainable Community Strategy, wherever private sector and of course the local community’. 9
possible’.8 Ruth Kelly, Minister for Communities and Local Government
Partners are crucial to success. Local authorities will not solve the problems themselves. They therefore need
to bring together the whole range of local stakeholders and public, private and voluntary agencies to generate
a vision and delivery strategy, and to actively work with them to deliver against it.
The benefits of working strategically across a number of authorities are increasingly being recognised. The
two main reasons why local authorities seek to overcome political and other impediments and decide to
collaborate with neighbouring authorities are that (i) by pooling their resources they can gather much more
coherent evidence and achieve a higher quality of analysis and strategic thinking and (ii) they are better able
to find solutions between them particularly where housing markets cross local authority boundaries. In some
areas collaboration has reached the point where local authorities are drawing up joint strategies that are
appropriate for particular housing market areas and that can be delivered locally. We are also witnessing a
shift at the regional level, with city regions in seeking to take a more active role in setting an economic vision
for areas and in influencing long-terms aims of housing strategy.
Local government white paper, Strong and Prosperous Communities endorses the development and use of
Multi-Area Agreements (MAAs) on a voluntary basis in areas where authorities need to work across
boundaries and with regional partners to increase economic development. These can be highly appropriate in
agreeing housing priorities between authorities (see Transform South Yorkshire case study).
Strategy involves a process
The dictionary definition of ‘strategy’ – a plan designed to achieve a particular long-term aim – is suggestive
of a process. Having a defined process helps to identify critical paths and to maintain a disciplined approach
and making others aware of relevant stages in the process also helps to engage partners and stakeholders
and keep them on board.
CIH proposes to articulate the strategic housing process in terms of three core ongoing elements, recognising
that there are many processes relating to each of these. Local authorities can and should be active in all
elements of the process at the same time.
7 For more on joint working between planning and housing, see Intelligent Approaches to Housing, CIH/RTPI/LGA, (2004), www.cih.org
8 Strong and Prosperous Communities, local government white paper, CLG, October 2006
9 Speech by Ruth Kelly, CIH Annual Conference, Harrogate, 20 June 2006
1. Vision and strategy development
o setting a long term (15 year) vision for housing (co-ordinated with other LA strategies) that supports
the Sustainable Community Strategy;
o gathering and interpreting data;
o engaging and listening to stakeholders;
o agreeing priorities, including those that are to be included in the LAA;
o appraising different options.
2. Action planning and delivery
o drawing up an action plan with internal and external partners;
o enabling and working with a range of
partners to deliver – drawing on the
expertise of other groups, negotiating and
providing incentives, agreeing protocols
and managing contracts;
o delivery through the local authority’s own
3. Monitoring and evaluating
o monitoring delivery of the action plan;
o evaluating community outcomes;
o accountability of local authority and
o involving partners and getting feedback;
o adjusting the vision and improving the
Rising to the challenge
The various mechanisms for steering and assessing local authorities in relation to their strategic housing
function present a variable picture about how well local authorities are doing (see box).
It is widely recognised that the strategic housing function has had a low profile and has been under-
resourced for some time in many authorities,
particularly those that are small and those that
have transferred their housing stock. This will Assessment against the fit-for-purpose criteria
established in DTLR guidance in 2001 suggest that there
have had an impact on the ability of staff to has been considerable improvement in local authorities’
engage in the LAA process. approach to housing strategy in recent years. In the first
year following this guidance, less then 10% of
Significant support and resources will be needed
authorities generated fit for purpose strategies whereas
to develop the role to deliver a function, in in August 2006 only 22% of local authorities had yet to
collaboration with neighbouring authorities in deliver a fit-for-purpose housing strategy.
line with the vision set out in the local As at August 2006 79% of local authorities that were
government white paper, Strong and Prosperous inspected by the Audit Commission were assessed as
Communities. either poor or fair for their strategic housing function
although 60% were rated with promising or excellent
It will also be necessary to review the framework prospects for improvement.
of guidance, assessment and performance as the CLG statistics (as at August 2006) show that 47% of
function develops. district councils had a high or very high need for
improvement in monitoring and managing progress and
identifying learning for improvements.
Overcoming barriers to engagement with LAAs
In 95% of the 87 LAAs that have been signed to date, housing is recognised as an essential element in place-
shaping and achieving other social outcomes. Only four signed LAAs do not mention housing at all. Almost
half of the LAAs (42) include a housing outcome other than the mandatory outcome on decent homes in
neighbourhood renewal areas.
There is a wide range of housing outcomes within LAAs. However the main outcomes in addition to decent
• better quality and improved access to housing for older people;
• reducing homelessness generally and specifically for young people;
• increasing the supply of affordable housing.
Despite almost 50% of LAAs including housing outcomes reflecting the local strategic priorities, there are a
number of perceived barriers to engagement between the strategic housing function and LAAs. These
• the four blocks – where should housing fit?
• housing market areas – these are rarely coterminous with upper tier authority boundaries;
• two tier working – district councils and county councils have different functions and priorities;
• limited funding streams to be pooled;
• the LAA is seen as a framework for existing practices and as an extra layer of bureaucracy that does not
add value to current delivery arrangements;
• influence of the strategic housing officer – in some areas the relatively junior grade of the strategic
housing officer inhibits involvement in broader corporate activities.
The four blocks
The four blocks (proposed as themes in the local government white paper, Strong and Prosperous
Communities) are cited as being an impediment to the inclusion of housing outcomes and targets.10 This is
because housing is seen as a cross-cutting theme which impacts across all four blocks of the LAA.
In fact the blocks have not prevented the inclusion of housing outcomes and targets. In the LAAs signed to
date housing outcomes and targets appear in all of the four blocks, although the majority appear in the Safer
and Stronger Communities block.
10 Local Area Agreements Research: Round 2 negotiations and early progress in round 1, CLG, October 2006
Housing outcomes under the four blocks
• London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham has as a stretch target under the block, Children
and Young People – ‘achieving economic well being by meeting housing needs.’ The target is to
‘increase the number of homelessness cases prevented through positive intervention.’
• Dorset has a target ‘to improve the supply of appropriate and affordable housing and local people’s
access to it’ within the Children and Young People’s block. The Council argues that a lack of access to
affordable housing prevents young people from staying in Dorset, deepening the imbalance in the
• Cornwall has a target to ‘increase the delivery of rural affordable homes and the proportion of
lifetime homes’ within the block, Safer, Stronger and Sustainable Communities.
• South Gloucestershire has a target ‘to deliver more affordable homes via the planning system’
within the Safer and Stronger Communities block.
• Buckinghamshire has a target to ‘increase the availability of suitable housing for those unable to
compete in the market’ under the Economic Development block.
• Essex has a target to ‘ensure development is designed to promote healthier living in the built
environment’ within the Healthier Communities and Older People block. Actions to support this
outcome include measures concerned with improving existing housing stock, e.g. through disabled
facilities grants, the CLG sponsored decent homes standard, as well as county-wide work on design,
including the revised Essex Design Guide, and its Urban Place Supplement. In addition, throughout
the life of the LAA, Essex will be looking to use the agreement to increase the stock of affordable
housing in Essex and this is included as an action under this priority.
Housing market areas
Housing market areas rarely have boundaries that are coterminous with local authority boundaries. This is a
particular problem in two tier areas. Sub-regional strategies tend to reflect the housing market area and
therefore a separate district housing strategy must take account of sub-regional and regional strategies that
may cut across the county boundary. It may therefore prove difficult to make a direct link between the upper
tier authority’s Sustainable Community Strategy and the sub-regional housing strategy. In these
circumstances, local authorities may choose to focus efforts and resources on the sub regional strategy, with
clearly identified and agreed actions for each authority set in the action plan.
Multi-Area Agreements (MAA), as described in the local government white paper, Strong and Prosperous
Communities are an emerging vehicle for
‘providing greater flexibility in shaping interventions within sub-regions and strengthening cross-boundary
working between local authorities and their partners.’ 11
The aim is
‘to ensure that strategies are coherent and that the linkages between places at a wider geographical level are
properly considered to add real value.’
The LAA framework will be developed to accommodate MAAs which will be developed on a voluntary basis.
Groups of authorities and partners will agree shared outcome based targets to incorporate in the MAA.
These will then be reflected in each area’s LAA. An MAA is a particularly useful approach to achieving
objectives around housing markets, growth and regeneration. They may be developed in the future to address
transport and economic development issues which also require sub-regional collaboration.
Some authorities have been pioneering MAAs and already have well-developed proposals (see Transform
South Yorkshire case study).
11 Strong and Prosperous Communities, local government white paper, Section 4, Volume 1, CLG, October 2006
Multi-Area Agreements – a vehicle to support cross-boundary working
Transform South Yorkshire is currently negotiating a Multi-Area Agreement (MAA) based upon the
whole of the sub-region as the conduit for housing market investments. The description that follows is
the current proposal and may change as negotiations progress.
The MAA involves all four South Yorkshire authorities – Sheffield, Rotherham, Barnsley and Doncaster.
The motivation for the MAA is to accelerate and increase the housing market restructuring activity in
South Yorkshire. The intention is that the MAA will be signed and operational by April 2007. Efficiencies
in procurement and programme management will provide better value for money from public sector
funds. In addition, the long term commitment of the government to Transform South Yorkshire’s
programmes will increase confidence of the voluntary and private sectors and enable the levering of
more private sector investment. To compliment this arrangement, refreshed governance structures are
being put in place.
Investment sources/funding streams that would be incorporated within the MAA include:
• Housing Market Renewal Pathfinder funding;
• Decent Homes grant;
• Regional Housing Pot;
• Supporting People grant;
• local authority funds and assets.
The partnership will work to align policies in respect of housing markets (e.g. affordable housing
policies) to achieve a consistency of approach across the sub-region.
Initially the MAA will deploy capital resources. However, revenue funding will also be included when
appropriate. To support the effective deployment of resources the partnership will:
• seek to align planning policies as they relate to section 106 so that there is a consistent approach across
• seek to establish common policies in respect of design quality standards required for new housing
developments in the sub-region.
The authorities involved are seeking various enabling measures to support the successful
implementation of the MAA:
• relaxation of rules and regulations relating to eligibility criteria for investment and where resources are
• authority for the Partnership to be able to utilise resources to improve cash flow where necessary or
• authority to contribute to, and draw out of, different investment streams as and when appropriate;
• agreement of a streamlined set of outcome measures for monitoring performance of the MAA;
• an end to the existing arrangement for Audit Commission monitoring of the HMR programme (to be
replaced by a more appropriate and cost effective review - to be negotiated).
The governance of the MAA will be made up of a sub-regional partnership board created from the
merger of Transform South Yorkshire and South Yorkshire Housing and Regeneration Partnership.
Sheffield City Council will be the accountable body for the MAA. At the neighbourhood level the
governance structures for the MAA are tailored to local circumstances and the need to build upon
existing structures and arrangements. The MAA structures at the local level are therefore part of the
relevant LSP structures, meaning that there are local differences in each of the four districts.
The outcomes from the MAA include the delivery of:
• an appropriate supply of affordable housing where it is needed within South Yorkshire; and
• quality neighbourhood hubs alongside new housing developments, creating sustainable
neighbourhoods that are attractive to existing and new residents.
The partnership will agree a number of outcome indicators on which it will report to the Regional
Two Tier Working
The relationship between strategic housing and LAAs in two tier authority areas can also be difficult to
establish, manage and maintain. The county council is the accountable body for the LAA, but the district
councils are officially the strategic housing authorities, even though an increasing number are working
together in sub-regional groups. In these circumstances it is important to identify a ‘champion’ to lead on
housing at the LAA board level on behalf of the county.
The difficulties faced in two tier areas may be a particular issue where the county includes both urban and
rural districts. Rural district councils that have responded to a high demand for affordable housing by
contributing land and capital and successfully bidding for Housing Corporation funds will inevitably be
concerned about a county LAA which they may perceive as potentially jeopardising that success. An urban
area that also has considerable pressure for increased affordable housing, but has not committed resources to
it, may be seen as a direct threat if capital resources within the county are pooled. Housing need may be the
same in both areas, but one has committed resources to resolving it and the other has not. In addition, the
housing market areas are unlikely to be coterminous and sub-regional strategies will not link directly to the
county boundary. In this scenario it is justifiable that the strategic housing officers will be reluctant to engage
with the county LAA, while nevertheless working to good effect in partnerships.
The added complication for two tier working is the number of LSPs that need to work together to develop
and deliver the LAA. Although it will be the county LSP that is responsible for the LAA, in many non-
neighbourhood renewal funding areas it is the county LSP that is fragile and under-developed. There has also
been a lack of effective member engagement at district level. In several areas however, districts and counties
are starting to work together to fulfil the community leadership role jointly and this has been a
positive outcome. In several areas the LAA has been used to drive forward a clearer focus on deprived
Improving two tier working through LAAs
In Derbyshire the housing champion role at LAA board level for the County has been taken on behalf
of the eight districts by the Chief Executive of Amber Valley District Council.
The LAA is serving as a catalyst to begin a process to engage in dialogue and improve partnership
working to the benefit of local people. For example, discussions about housing development sites
between county and districts could result in combining sites to maximise the contribution of developers
to affordable housing provision. The county is developing a protocol on maximising developer
contributions through section 106 agreements across all districts to ensure a consistent approach.
Shropshire has a long history of working in partnership on housing and has a mature housing officers
group. The Shropshire Housing Officers Group has evolved into the West Housing Market Area
Steering Group which will also incorporate Herefordshire Council as it is part of the housing market
area. The Steering Group includes elected members and planning officers as well as housing officers.
The district authorities within Shropshire and the County Council jointly fund a county-wide housing
enabler through the Public Service Board and there is a housing strategy and research officer who is
responsible for co-ordinating the housing LAA targets.
Although districts within the county have different approaches to delivering affordable housing, the
partnership aims to agree a consistent approach to moving forward.
Shropshire is negotiating a stretch target for an outcome on ‘preventing homelessness among vulnerable
young people and providing affordable housing for Shropshire’s communities.’Affordable housing is the
biggest priority for Shropshire.
12 Local Area Agreements Research: Round 2 negotiations and early progress in round 1, CLG, October 2006
Limited funding streams to be pooled
The discussion paper From Decent Homes to Decent Communities13 raises the possibility of pooling decent
homes funding through LAAs to achieve broader community outcomes. The main housing related funding
streams in addition to decent homes funding, include:
• Housing Market Renewal Pathfinder funding;
• Regional Housing Pot;
• Supporting People grant;
• local authority funds and assets.
The majority of public funding for increasing the supply of affordable housing is allocated by the Housing
Corporation on a regional and sub-regional basis, not directly to local authority areas. There are just five
LAAs that have been signed to date that have aligned Social Housing Grant to meet housing outcomes. The
South Yorkshire MAA will serve as a useful pilot for the pooling of housing funds.
There is also an argument to be made for other funding streams to be pooled to achieve housing outcomes,
as this directly contributes to the achievement of other social outcomes. For example, alley-gating in estates
prevents crime and disorder, improved housing reduces health inequalities, spending on aids and adaptations
reduces emergency admissions to hospital, reducing homelessness and overcrowding improves educational
attainment etc. There is however, a need for robust research that enables actual measurement of the impact
of housing expenditure on other social outcomes.
The LAAs added value is not obvious to all
Areas with mature and effective partnership working may consider the LAA as an additional layer of
bureaucracy. In these areas, the added value of the LAA is not immediately evident and until funds are
satisfactorily pooled with a consequent decrease in monitoring, this view is reasonably justified. However,
there are many authorities with ambition that have used the LAA as a catalyst to improve outcomes for local
people through improved partnership working.
Added value – facilitating corporate decisions around use of public land
In Worcestershire the LAA has served as a catalyst for discussions about the release of land owned by
public agencies such as police, health, church etc. at less than market value to enable affordable housing
developments across the county. Public agencies generally see the release of land assets at market value
as a way to fund their own strategic priorities. However, there is a growing recognition amongst
partners that the increase of affordable housing has benefits which will help them to achieve their own
strategic targets and potentially decrease the call on core spending for them. The role of housing in
reducing health inequalities, reducing crime and anti-social behaviour, etc. is being discussed and
recognised through the framework of the LAA.
The LSP has as a main priority the increase of affordable housing. The refreshed LAA is likely to
include an outcome to ‘improve access to affordable and decent housing’.
13 From Decent Homes to Decent Communities, a discussion paper, CLG, June 2006
Influence of the strategic housing function
As at August 2006, almost one quarter of local authorities (22%) had not delivered a fit-for-purpose housing
strategy.14 In many authorities the strategic housing officer is a third or fourth tier officer working on their
own and therefore, whether the function has influence or not is entirely reliant on the drive and ability of the
individual in post. The understanding and importance of the function to the authority will generally be
reflected in the grade of the officer responsible. It is common, for example, in authorities that have transferred
their housing stock, or have set up an ALMO to employ only one or two officers at lower grade. The capacity
and ability of the individual to engage with the cross-cutting agenda of the LAA may therefore be inhibited
unless this function is given a higher priority and better funded, reflected in the staff grade.
Positioning of housing strategy within the local authority
The London Borough of Enfield has a corporate housing strategy that is multi-tenure and
commended by the Government Office for London. The housing strategy goes beyond ‘fit-for-purpose’
and has been praised by the Commission for Social Care Inspection in a physical disabilities inspection.
The local authority’s structure has been recently reviewed to be aligned with driving improvement. A
new Director of Performance, Partnerships and Policy has been employed and both the LAA and the
housing strategy are included within the remit of the function. The link between the locality’s
Sustainable Community Strategy and the housing strategy is therefore, mirrored within the authority’s
The Director is supported by a strategic housing officer bringing responsibility for the housing strategy
into the corporate centre. Corporate and partnership strategies are more readily aligned if responsibility
for the housing strategy is located with responsibility for all other corporate strategies. In addition, the
synergy between the strategic housing function and the achievement of other social outcomes is more
Derbyshire Dales District Council and High Peak Borough Council which are LSVT/ALMO
authorities respectively, have established a joint housing strategy team. This has enabled the creation of
an effective and sustainable team with strong corporate leads.
Adding value to local outcomes
Many of the examples included here demonstrate that LAAs are not fixed and inflexible, but can be adapted
and employed in different ways to achieve better corporate working and better community outcomes. A
positive and creative attitude by housing strategists to engagement with the development of the LAA will
benefit local people through improved housing outcomes. A narrow approach that just considers whether
housing outcomes are in or out of the LAA is not helpful and demonstrates a ‘partisan’ approach to housing.
The LAA is an important delivery tool for the housing strategy, and a means of raising its profile locally,
although it is not the only one. Housing is recognised to be an important supporting contributor to the
achievement of other priority social outcomes within a locality, not just an end in itself and it is important
that policy makers and strategists understand it as such.
14 Renewing the Strategic Housing Role of Local Authorities. Presentation by Carol Sweetenham, CLG, 7 September 2006
Housing – an element of regeneration
London Borough of Greenwich has a housing strategy which is integrated into a broader regeneration
Greenwich proposes to include a decent homes stretch target within the LAA targeting Neighbourhood
Renewal areas to speed up the delivery of the decent homes standard. This proposal was based upon
the premise that improved housing delivers health benefits. The reward grant will be used to support
prudential borrowing to ease the transition until savings through service efficiencies come through in
three to five years. A housing target thus supports the outcomes of the Healthier Communities and
Older People block.
As referred to earlier, successful housing strategists must appreciate the interdependency between the
strategic housing function and achieving other outcomes and be able to communicate this effectively.
Strategic housing officers increasingly work with partners both to develop and to deliver the housing strategy.
The relationship between housing and planning has been recognised by central government in the merger of
the Regional Housing and Planning Boards. Increasingly local authorities are also ensuring that strategic
housing and planning work closely together.
Bringing together housing and planning
Many authorities are achieving similar outcomes to South Gloucestershire which has an outcome to
‘deliver more affordable homes via the planning system’. However, South Gloucestershire has included
this outcome within its LAA. The Local Plan target is to deliver 33.3% of homes on major housing sites
negotiated as affordable through the development control process. The actions to support this require
close working between strategic housing and planning officers.
The proposal in the local government white paper, Strong and Prosperous Communities, that the housing
strategy should be incorporated into the Sustainable Community Strategy will help to improve the
relationship between the strategic housing function and the LAA. The development of the Sustainable
Community Strategy is inevitably an iterative process. Evidence collected as part of the development of the
housing strategy must be fed upwards to the LSP, which then having reviewed evidence from the range of
strategies for the locality, must decide the key priorities for the area. These key priorities will inform the
manner in which the housing strategy is delivered.
The benefits of partnership working arise both in the development of the Sustainable Community Strategy
and in its delivery through the LAA. In developing the Strategy the interaction will identify synergies
between different strategies that feed into and link to it and ensure that outcomes and targets reflect, as well
as others, the housing strategy, where possible. At the delivery end, in the LAA, outcomes and targets will be
better achieved through joint working. The benefit of agreeing a protocol between partners for releasing
public land to increase the proportion of affordable housing has been highlighted earlier.
Relationships between LAAs and LSPs and the implications
The LSPs’ governance arrangements to manage LAAs vary across the country. In some areas local housing
providers are represented, but strategic housing is not. This may be because the authorities believe that the
corporate representation from the authority is adequate and can reflect the breadth of strategies produced by
the authority. Housing providers are also often the voluntary and community sector representatives on the
LSP. Strategic housing may be represented in a sub-block theme group that then feeds into the LSP.
Local authorities should seriously consider whether a lack of representation of strategic housing officers on
the LSP is compromising their ability to deliver the housing strategy. Whether or not the strategic housing
function is represented on the LSP, it remains a key task for the strategic housing officer to work with others
to ensure that the housing strategy is delivered. Discussions with colleagues in other services will also be
necessary to convince them of the central role that housing can play in achieving their strategic outcomes, for
example; gaining additional funding from health and social care for funding aids and adaptations for elderly
people to reduce the incidence of falls and emergency admissions. The contribution to other outcomes should
then be reflected in the LAA.
The skills required to make the most of the opportunity of the LAA framework are not different to those
required to deliver the strategic housing function. The key skills and attributes required include:
• strategic vision – seeing the ‘big picture’ and understanding others’ perspectives;
• an ability to move from the strategic to the operational and vice versa;
• partnership working – across professional and administrative boundaries;
• understanding of planning and housing;
• ‘marketing’ (as expressed in several of the seminars run in 2006 by CIH).
Many housing and strategic professionals demonstrate these skills, but the function itself may not be
sufficiently well defined to give clarity on how to employ them. There is also a need to identify and address
possible barriers in the wider corporate environment that may inhibit the impact of the role. As the
professional body for the sector with a commitment to building strong communities, CIH is working to
influence and shape the redefinition of the strategic housing function and to equip those working to secure
CIH is looking at issues and barriers to effective development and delivery of the strategic housing role as
part of the local authority’s wider strategic, place shaping role. CIH, in partnership with Ipsos MORI, has
been commissioned by IDeA to scope the awareness, understanding, skills and knowledge in local authorities
around this key function, and identifying ways forward to address gaps. LAAs are one of several areas where
greater understanding of housing’s contribution to the wider strategic agendas will both increase the
demands made of this function, and the opportunities it brings to achieve the vision of sustainable
The IDeA’s Local Area Agreement website (www.idea.gov.uk/laa) contains examples of completed LAAs,
together with practical advice on how to develop your LAA.
Author: Sheila Lewis, Volanti Consulting
Editors: Merron Simpson and Sarah Davis, CIH
Contributions from Sam Lister and Debbie Larner, CIH, and Janet Dean and Adam Benjamin, IDeA.
Published by the CIH, Octavia House, Westwood Way, Coventry, CV4 8JP
Telephone: (024) 7685 1700