Regeneration with a social heart

Regeneration can be a polarising subject. In London, it is sometimes portrayed as gentrification by the back door.

 

At Home Group we take a holistic approach to regeneration, guided by our mission to “build homes, independence and aspirations”. We focus on interventions aimed at achieving positive social, environmental and economic outcomes for our customers, while reducing public sector expenditure by the police, NHS, welfare spend and other public services.

 

The regeneration of our Rayners Lane estate in Harrow is an example of our approach. LSE argues that the regeneration model used in the Rayners regeneration had a strong social benefit focus. Using the HACT social value calculator model, for every £1 invested in the regeneration, the LSE estimates that £10 of social return was generated.  See link for more information.

https://www.homegroup.org.uk/Corporate/Development-Partners/Completed-Home-Group-development-case-studies/Rayners-Lane-Harrow

 

An important lesson from the LSE evaluation was that we should have baselined indicators at the outset of the process. We’re learning from this in our current regeneration portfolio planning.

 

As a national organisation, we need granular understanding of our communities and customers in order to meet the varying needs in each locality. A one size fits all approach to regeneration doesn’t work. See the table below for examples of two contrasting areas in our current regeneration portfolio to illustrate this point. Note that employment rates in these two areas are very similar at c73%:

 

Indicator

Regen area A in London

Regen area B in Cumbria

Median house price

£510,000

£128,000

Ratio house price to workplace earnings

15.88

2.71

Local authority population density per sq kilometre

4,470

93

Age profile

Younger population:

0 to 15 – 21.4%

16 to 64 – 64.4%

65+ - 14.2%

Older population:

0 to 15 – 17%

16 to 64 – 60.9%

65+ - 22.1%

 

Given the customer centric nature of our regeneration, it’s also worth considering segmenting the customer base to illustrate divergence in customer characteristics between areas. Using Acorn segments[1], the most prevalent segments in the postcodes of our regeneration areas (compared to UK average) are as follows.

 

Most prevalent Acorn groups in Regeneration postcode

Regeneration area A London

UK average

Regeneration area B Cumbria

Struggling estates

32.7%

6.6%

--------

Student life

24.9%

2.2%

--------

City sophisticates

17.6%

3.9%

--------

Modest means

--------

7.8%

37.9%

Countryside communities

--------

6.2%

21.6%

Poorer pensioners

--------

5.9%

11.7%

 

The measurement framework we’ve developed builds in the need for flexibility in recognition of these varying characteristics of neighbourhoods and customers. We are using the HACT model to assess social return and see this as core to understanding differing priorities within communities to ensure a targeted and tailored approach to regeneration.

 

The experience we have gained in regeneration has opened up many questions, for example:

 

Can regeneration really ‘wash its own face’?

 

In our experience, large scale holistic regeneration is difficult to achieve without significant financial investment. One possible source of funding could be partners. For example, if it is likely that crime would reduce as a result of the regeneration, could community safety agencies provide some resource?

 

The value placed on social return should be built into assessing the ‘performance’ of an estate. In this situation, it may well be feasible to ensure a project generates substantial return on investment, as with Rayners Lane.

 

Can targets be imposed on the housing provider to ensure social outcomes are at the heart of regeneration projects?

 

We would urge caution. Firstly, the challenges will vary between areas. In one area, customers may be concerned about air quality and pollution; in another, lack of connectivity to local services. Furthermore, regeneration can only be successful in a partnership with customers and key stakeholders, and must be tailored to each locality. The housing provider alone cannot be responsible for all social outcome successes and failures. What if a local Doctors’ surgery closes shortly after the regeneration? Or a major employer shuts down?

 

How can ballots help to drive this agenda?

 

Ballots should ensure that customers are empowered and are central to regeneration projects. But does this mean there’s a need to wait until a neighbourhood hits rock bottom before there’s a groundswell of public opinion in favour of change, rather than intervening prior to this stage? We don’t want our neighbourhoods to reach ‘sink estate’ status; in contrast, we want our customers to have better places to live and a higher quality of life as soon as possible.

 

Home Group regeneration model relies on customer input and design throughout the process, not a snapshot of a decision at a particular point. Ballots must enhance rather than dictate the customer engagement process.

 

 

 

In conclusion, Rayners Lane customers reported positive outcomes with respect to their regeneration. However, replicating this success across a diverse portfolio of schemes in an unpredictable political environment is not easy, and we are carefully managing this. We are committed to listening and learning to maximise the positive outcomes for our customers. Social value is central to our planning, as guided by our mission.

 
  1. Acorn is a geodemographic segmentation of the UK’s population. It segments households, postcodes and neighbourhoods into 6 categories, 18 groups and 62 types. By analysing significant social factors and population behaviour, it provides precise information and an in-depth understanding of the different types of people. For more details about the categories, please contact Gillian.roll@homegroup.org.uk.

 

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