Who is the top developing housing association? Which player leads the field in low-cost home ownership or private renting? Find out in Homes' annual analysis of the housing association sector. Data produced by Stuart Macdonald
At the start of the year when the government's communities plan was launched, deputy prime minister John Prescott promised a "step-change in approach". The distribution of government funding is designed to ensure that housing associations live up to Prescott's typically robust talk, with its emphasis on providing more affordable homes in the South, and its fervour for off-site manufactured build technology.

Government money made available through the Housing Corporation is aimed at funding the building of more than 28,000 affordable homes over the year, a planned increase of just over 8000 on 2002/03. The corporation is set to fund 21,000 homes through the Approved Development Programme, and a further 7000 will be funded through the Challenge Fund, which is earmarked for the building of homes for key workers in the South-east through the use of off-site manufacture.

The corporation programme allows for the provision of a little more than 3000 homes in the four housing growth areas designated within the communities plan, a small contribution to the 200,000 extra announced by Prescott. English Partnerships will help housing associations overcome the development obstacle of prohibitive land values in the South by releasing sites to housing associations free of charge, to provide 1400 homes for key workers.

But there is a clear southern bias already to the upper echelons of our league table of the top developing housing associations and, not surprisingly, to our table of top players in the private rental and sale sectors. London-based Peabody Trust is not only topping the development tables, its early adoption of off-site manufacture technology and of the key-worker housing remit earns it ticks in all the right government boxes.

The communities plan also heralded a new, regionalised route to funding delivery. The government has asked each region to generate its own housing strategy, and this will guide government allocation of funding of housing, drawing on both Approved Development Programme money and Housing Investment Programme money, which will be pooled in one central pot.

More radical changes could be on the horizon.

The government is known to want to rationalise the approach to affordable housing provision, with fewer housing associations carrying out development and more partnership arrangements. The fact that about 30 fewer housing associations received funding this year than last is another indication that it is pushing housing associations to carry out its wishes. The government has also mooted the prospect of allowing private housebuilders to provide affordable housing.

But whereas private housebuilders could be moving in to housing associations' territory, some housing associations are broadening their remits through near or full-market operations. As the tables of low-cost home ownership, and private rental and sale developers show, these businesses are becoming substantial operations in their own right, with Peabody developing 3579 homes for private rent and sale, Tower Homes developing 1048 low-cost homes, and Irwell Valley Housing Association developing 1243 units for private rental and sale. The changes are already well under way.