Money is pouring into the social housing sector in the South, but low demand converts to less cash in the North.
The north-south divide does not only apply to the disparity in house prices in Barnsley and Barnes; it continues to be evident in housing association development activity. The South remains the dominant area for development, as the needs of its rising population and priced-out-of-the-market key workers command attention, while the North continues to be afflicted by low demand. The southern bias can be seen in the operating areas of 13 of the top 20 developing housing associations. There are some northern-based rising stars in Homes' annual table of the top developing housing associations, however, with Riverside and CDS on Merseyside progressing steadily upwards, not only in the current table, but over the past four years.

Perhaps the biggest surprise contained in this year's table is the allocation of the innovative London-based housing association Peabody Trust, which recently grabbed headlines for its involvement in the LiveIn Quarters group's strategy to develop modular microflats for the capital's keyworkers. Last year, the Housing Corporation handed Peabody £18m, but its latest allocation is just £1.77m.

The reduction in allocation will not put a brake on Peabody's activities, as it is one of the least grant-dependent associations and still has the top-ranking development programme of 3885 homes planned for 2002. "We had a very large allocation the previous year," says a Peabody spokeswoman. "We were bidding for very little as we are focusing on stock transfers. We are hoping for more next year."

Other associations have relatively small allocations and are able to carry out substantial programmes, thanks to co-operation with health and education trusts and local authorities, or their involvement in regeneration initiatives.

Of the newcomers on this year's table, many are familiar names, while others, such as Community, Octavia, and Hightown Praetorian, have risen rapidly to prominence on the development scene in the past few years.

Then there are Paradigm and Apex, large-scale voluntary transfer associations that have built up their own development programmes over the years, following in the footsteps of such players as Beacon, Flagship, Signpost and Eastern Shires. All of these are based in the South where LSVTs have been longer established – and many have built up development programmes in partnership with local authorities, often moving beyond their original geographical boundaries of operation. The other significant newcomer to the top 50 is Arena, the association formed from the merger of Grosvenor and Liver.

The ones to watch this year

Four years ago Acton stood at 38th position in the top 50 table, but just look at it now. It achieved the second highest Housing Corporation allocation this year at £40m-plus, which is amazing for an association of its size – under 7,000 homes. It has trebled in 10 years. Moat
This is a dynamic association with fingers in many pies – affordable home ownership, London’s Greenwich Millennium Village, and urban regeneration as well as traditional Housing Corporation allocation. It is receiving one of its healthiest levels of allocation. Notting Hill
The London-based association is about to undergo a makeover, and fared well this year with a substantial allocation of more than £32m. It could progress even higher up the table next year. Ujima
The largest black and minority ethnic-led association continues to maintain a high position in the rankings, given its relatively small size with fewer than 4,000 properties. It has gained another very large allocation this year with more than £26m, although this is down on the £39m it achieved last year. East Thames
East Thames received a small allocation last year, but it has caught up this year by gaining the third largest allocation at £34m, and the association is likely to continue its progress up the table next year.