For big housing associations, one framework, open to all contractors and consultants, is not specific enough to meet demand

With the ever-increasing need for more homes to meet growing demand, housing associations now rival major housebuilders in terms of output while offering a wider array of tenures than ever before.

This stems from a need to operate more commercially given the impact of the 1% rent reduction, the lowering of government grants and the significant challenge of social rent.

The need to adapt has distilled throughout housing associations’ business plans; a clear example of this is the way in which we now procure contractors and consultants for development work.

JV North, which is a consortium of 11 housing associations spanning Greater Manchester, Merseyside, Nottingham and Preston, collectively manages over 73,000 homes.

We are underway investing £335.5m (£87.3m from the HCA’s Shared Ownership Affordable Homes Programme and £248.2m from members) to build 3,000 new homes by 2021.

JV North celebrates its 10th anniversary this year and we have drawn on this experience to regularly change our frameworks to ensure members can build as many homes as possible.

Our 2017/21 framework, valued at £180m, has been overhauled to reflect the lessons learned from two previous frameworks for the 2011/15 and 2015/18 HCA Affordable Homes Programmes where we had schemes of varying values.

We recently announced the successful applicants of stage one, which was for schemes valued at £1m and over.

At times we struggled to receive tenders for some of the smaller schemes with a potential impact on value for money due to a lack of competition on prices

Stage two has just been launched and for the first time is open to SME builders with a specific lot for works at under £1m.

We found having one framework that is open to all contractors and consultants was not specific enough.

While the frameworks attracted some of the biggest contractors and consultancies in the UK and their work was very good (most of these have been successful once again), there were drawbacks too.

At times we struggled to receive tenders for some of the smaller schemes with a potential impact on value for money due to a lack of competition on prices.

While larger contractors felt some of our smaller schemes were not big enough, equally, SME contractors did not apply for our framework as they perceived the work and application process beyond them.

We’ve acknowledged smaller building companies ideally suited to smaller projects do not have an easy route to work with JV North members, hence the separate procurement for projects below £1m has been introduced.

We believe this will give them the opportunity they require.

In turn it will make the tendering process more competitive and help create a growing construction sector with greater building capacity.

Experience also tells us this new way of operating will see more benefits in members’ local communities with housing associations keener than ever to further invest through work, jobs, training, apprenticeships and the buying of materials.

What do housing association clients want from contractors in 2017 and the immediate future ahead?

It is multifaceted but if contractors and consultants focus on cost certainty, high quality delivery, a robust approach to CSR and training, open partnerships wherever possible, while sharing knowledge and market intelligence, they will find they have happy clients.
Nigel Wilson is chairman of JV North and chief executive of Wythenshawe Community Housing Group