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Top 50 Biggest Builders 2021

Which housing associations are building the most homes? And which have the biggest pipelines? Jess McCabe finds out

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Just some of the homes built by housing associations in 2020/21
Just some of the homes built by housing associations in 2020/21
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Which housing associations are building the most homes? And which have the biggest pipelines? @jester finds out #UKhousing

Homes built by top 50 in 2020/21 fall 15% to 34,753 – @insidehousing reveals how #UKhousing development has been impacted by pandemic, Brexit, fire safety and more

The number of homes built by the biggest housing associations has dropped 15%, Inside Housing can reveal.

This will probably not surprise many people reading Inside Housing. COVID-19 and supply chain shortages are slowing down work on building sites. On the other hand, fire safety and the expected costs of retrofitting existing stock to be more energy efficient are cutting how much money social landlords can commit to building new homes.

The result? Our annual list of which associations are building the most homes gives an indication. Inside Housing’s top 50 Biggest Builders completed 34,753 homes in 2020/21, compared to 40,681 last year. They invested £6.1bn to build the homes, of which £597.7m was some form of government grant.


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That is the sector-wide impact. What does that look like when you turn to how the different housing associations have performed?

For some it was a dramatic impact. Look at LiveWest, which told us: “We expected to deliver 1,234 affordable homes in 2020/21 but ended up delivering 701.” That is not even 60% of its plan.

Some impacts seem to be short term – delays pushing completion on a project from one financial year to the next. Notting Hill Genesis is one example of this, telling us: “Our handover plans have been delayed as a result of the pandemic, with circa 500 handovers being delayed from 2020/21 into the 2021/22 year, representing 30% of our planned handovers.”

Closure of sites for lockdown and actual cases of COVID-19 shutting down work on sites were reported. Planning departments also shut down for periods, which has slowed developments. But also the shortages of materials seen across the construction industry at the moment has had an impact, with some developers stockpiling and worsening the situation. The flipside of this is the housing market – as prices and demand have been high in many areas, some landlords said this may limit the impact of these negative factors on their pipeline.

Building safety has also cut into development – housing associations have redirected funds from their development pipelines to pay to make their existing buildings safe from fire. But it has also increased the cost of building.

Top 50 Biggest Builders 2021: most completions

2021 rank Housing association Number of homes Total completions 2020/21 Social rent Affordable rent Intermediate rent product Low-cost homeownership Market sale Private rent Total investment Total government grant
1 L&Q 118,181 2,694 144 606 96 710 1,016 122 £874.6m £48.3m
2 Places for People 219,616 2,186 175 559 0 177 1,144 131 n/a n/a
3 Clarion 125,000 2,126 33 702 0 1,183 208 0 £626.0m n/a
4 Notting Hill Genesis 66,478 1,276 25 269 68 394 276 244 £634.7m £19.4m
5 Peabody1 66,000 1,176 182 358 119 376 141 0 n/a n/a
6 Sovereign 61,598 1,099 151 434 0 474 40 0 £217.3m £11.0m
7 Home Group 55,000 1,018 133 214 12 195 464 0 n/a n/a
8 Vivid Housing 32,123 1,010 226 194 0 319 227 44 £205.3m £11.6m
9 Aster2 32,882 928 90 382 6 339 111 0 £159.6m £4.4m
10 Metropolitan Thames Valley 58,000 923 47 182 0 475 219 0 £290.0m £17.4m
11 Platform 45,510 909 254 282 0 373 0 0 £168.8m £15.4m
12 Bromford3 44,962 902 377 273 0 210 27 0 £119.0m £25.2m
13 Orbit 45,565 848 123 312 0 231 182 0 £180.6m £34.3m
14 Sanctuary 105,218 834 204 280 0 181 169 0 £148.9m £29.6m
15 Abri (formerly Radian) 35,000 801 202 157 0 341 101 0 £119.4m £3.9m
16 LiveWest 37,820 785 211 264 0 226 84 0 £105.0m £13.0m
17 Riverside 58,600 691 0 336 0 146 209 0 £100.3m £9.9m
18 Stonewater 34,132 671 96 295 0 280 0 0 £105.0m £9.0m
19 Torus 39,370 659 25 440 0 169 0 25 £98.2m £17.2m
20 Hyde 50,000 651 0 214 0 207 230 0 n/a n/a
21 A2Dominion 38,395 629 2 45 80 26 186 290 n/a £2.3m
22 Network Homes4 18,567 620 0 336 0 208 76 0 £216.0m £19.6m
23 Optivo 45,000 577 18 227 0 271 61 0 £158.5m £4.4m
24 Jigsaw 34,000 525 13 410 0 83 19 0 £66.0m £11.0m
25 Guinness 63,279 506 83 168 0 247 8 0 £88.1m £26.9m
26 Citizen 30,000 503 179 152 0 123 49 0 £82.0m £10.3m
27 Yorkshire Housing 16,345 499 87 138 32 159 75 8 £107.7m £12.6m
28 GreenSquareAccord 25,716 484 39 315 0 96 34 0 n/a n/a
29 Flagship 32,000 480 0 191 100 171 18 0 n/a £7.6m
30 Pobl 17,500 478 282 0 53 82 61 0 £82.0m £34.3m
31 Link 8,768 477 236 0 219 22 0 0 £73.2m £33.4m
32 Karbon 28,000 447 41 105 134 152 15 0 £36.1m £7.6m
33 Hightown 7,203 429 29 281 0 119 0 0 £15.3m £8.9m
34 Moat 21,148 422 28 191 0 197 6 0 £107.6m £6.1m
35 Wheatley 93,000 413 329 0 84 0 0 0 £58.7m £27.8m
36 Housing 21 21,574 400 208 0 0 192 0 0 £63.0m £14.4m
37 BPHA 19,464 362 0 206 0 137 19 0 £50.4m 0
38 Hillcrest 7,808 360 327 33 0 0 0 0 £48.6m n/a
39 EMH Group 20,000 356 25 167 0 164 0 0 £67.5m £15.1m
40 Thirteen 39,000 352 4 262 0 47 39 0 £43.2m £19.0m
41 Midland Heart 32,520 350 40 193 0 117 0 0 £47.5m £4.2m
42 Nottingham Community 9,903 347 6 160 0 159 22 0 £32.9m £4.7m
43 Longhurst 23,439 340 6 161 14 153 6 0 £65.8m £16.7m
44 WHG 21,602 332 74 157 0 101 0 0 £48.8m £2.9m
45 Cross Keys 12,128 325 3 192 0 130 0 0 £48.0m £1.0m
46 Great Places 24,000 325 36 146 0 92 51 0 £52.3m £7.2m
47 Origin 7,360 313 65 15 4 83 146 0 £32.4m £5.2m
48 Sovini 13,980 310 26 183 0 101 0 0 £42.0m £6.0m
49 Catalyst 33,730 305 42 66 0 146 51 0 £68.1m £13.3m
50 PA Housing 23,946 300 83 99 0 116 0 2 £128.0m £5.9m
Totals 34,753 5,009 11,352 1,021 10,700 5,790 866 £6.1bn £597.7m

Source: Inside Housing survey

Notes: 1. Number of affordable rent homes completed includes 237 at London Affordable Rent 2. Includes both Aster Group and East Boro Housing Trust 3. Total includes 15 homes for people with additional support needs 4. Affordable rent number includes 96 homes built to London Living Rent and 40 built to the Department of Health’s affordable rent – elderly category

Jon Milburn, group development director at The Guinness Partnership, explains: “We’re doing things like in medium-sized blocks of flats where we might previously have relied on one lift and one staircase, we’re putting in two lifts and two other means of escape – that increases your costs, makes your building much less efficient and impacts on financial viabilities.

“Our determination to produce buildings as safe as they can reasonably be [means] we’ve taken a lot longer time on detail design before we enter into a design-and-build-contract, to make sure we’re getting the fire strategy right… That’s impacted not so much on number of homes, more on the speed of the programme.”

If it wasn’t for the delays, he says, Guinness might have started on site with 1,600 to 1,700 homes last financial year, instead of its actual figure – 1,349.

Which tenure are housing associations building?

5,009

Number of social rent homes completed by the top 50 in 2020/21

7,667

Number of social rent homes started

10,700

Number of low-cost homeownership homes completed

Top 10 starts – 2021

Housing association How many homes do you own/manage (2021)? Starts on site in 2020/21
L&Q 118,181 3,818
Clarion 125,000 2,335
Hyde 50,000 2,192
Platform 45,510 1,567
Home Group 55,000 1,477
Stonewater 34,132 1,372
Guinness 63,279 1,349
Sanctuary 105,218 1,345
Sovereign 61,598 1,257
Riverside 58,600 1,245

Source: Inside Housing survey

L&Q built the most homes this year, meaning it is at the top of our list of the 50 biggest builders in the sector.

The London-based landlord completed 2,694 homes, an 11% increase on the previous year (when it built 2,433).

Still, Vicky Savage, L&Q’s group director of development and sales, sings a similar song to the rest of the sector. “Inevitably, the costs of required fire safety and remediation works mean build programmes are down across the sector,” she says. “More challenges remain, from ensuring the continued supply of materials and labour, to adapting to the decarbonisation agenda and Future Homes Standard. With a cross-subsidy model reliant on strong house prices, we’ll be watching the market carefully.”

There is not a huge amount of difference in the commentary offered by those who have built a large amount this year, and those who have seen numbers drop off. Southern is one of those with a significant reduction (see box: Risers and fallers).

Top 50 Biggest Builders 2021: pipeline

2021 rank Housing association Number of homes expected to complete in 2021/22 Number with site secured (ownership or options) Number of homes expected to complete in next two years Number with site secured (ownership or options) Number of homes expected to complete in next five years Number with site secured (ownership or options)
1 Sovereign 1,900 1,518 3,800 2,514 10,877 5,084
2 Places for People 1,741 888 4,026 2,245 12,896 4,500
3 Sanctuary 1,682 1,682 3,742 n/a 8,248 n/a
4 Vivid Housing 1,600 1,441 3,400 2,904 9,300 8,244
5 Bromford 1,547 1,423 2,957 2,188 7,377 2,656
6 Platform 1,530 1,498 3,469 2,031 9,119 2,229
7 Home Group 1,474 n/a 3,945 n/a 9,758 n/a
8 Torus 1,356 750 2,965 1,450 6,917 2,713
9 Notting Hill Genesis 1,341 1,341 2,097 2,097 5,461 5,461
10 Aster 1 1,303 990 2,980 1,835 7,497 2,247
11 Link 1,261 1,261 2,091 1,619 3,161 2,055
12 LiveWest 1,206 1,150 2,555 2,041 6,955 3,084
13 Peabody2 1,190 1,190 3,000 3,000 n/a n/a
14 Riverside 1,172 1,048 2,353 1,707 4,074 2,062
15 Orbit 1,141 1,141 2,555 2,470 7,296 4,045
16 Stonewater 1,136 1,124 3,032 2,576 4,989 3,544
17 Abri (formerly Radian) 970 957 2,189 2,031 4,489 3,313
18 A2Dominion 953 953 2,153 2,153 5,453 5,453
19 Midland Heart 880 880 1,920 1,272 3,500 1,380
20 Moat 840 809 1,402 1,244 3,250 1,278
21 Guinness 835 810 2,437 1,952 6,948 4,607
22 Metropolitan Thames Valley 830 830 1,750 1,750 6,200 3,596
23 Flagship 826 731 1,784 1,136 4,650 1,500
24 Jigsaw3 800 800 1,688 1,182 4,011 2,006
25 Optivo 771 771 1,816 1,816 5,038 2,863
26 Hightown 766 699 1,486 1,031 2,391 1,113
27 Wheatley 760 760 1,337 1,020 4,008 2,325
28 GreenSquareAccord 758 n/a 1,338 n/a 3,210 n/a
29 Great Places4 745 745 1,758 1,350 5,900 3,113
30 Longhurst 727 727 1,477 940 3,943 1,196
31 Hyde 681 681 1,815 1,815 6,848 4,195
32 Catalyst 660 660 1,167 1,137 4,000 3,079
33 Citizen 633 528 1,380 766 3,068 941
34 Yorkshire Housing 610 561 1,611 1,402 2,750 2,063
35 EMH Group 602 559 1,352 956 2,750 1,396
36 Housing 21 556 556 1,201 1,201 3,500 2,625
37 Cross Keys 536 391 1,150 794 2,503 907
38 Pobl 520 520 1,188 1,086 2,779 1,668
39 Nottingham Community 508 495 1,016 558 2,100 683
40 Karbon Homes 507 484 1,114 984 2,843 1,076
41 Grand Union 483 422 963 600 1,268 600
42 Together5 480 439 935 552 1,424 552
43 Thirteen 467 467 1,434 1,023 4,100 1,536
44 PA Housing 450 393 1,000 447 3,000 694
45 WHG 443 443 1,100 531 2,750 531
46 CHP 443 443 730 552 1,825 552
47 Gentoo 437 413 928 879 2,484 1,625
48 Wales & West 435 435 1,000 855 2,500 1,436
49 Hillcrest 386 386 n/a n/a n/a n/a
50 Paradigm 384 384 906 556 2,250 1,145
Totals 44,262 38,577 95,492 66,754 234,658 111,971

Source: Inside Housing survey

Notes: 1. Includes both Aster Group and East Boro Housing Trust 2. Projected pipeline figures are estimates 3. Figures above are based on current development strategy and financial plan projections and are subject to strategic partnership application outcome 4. All the information regarding new developments in the future pipeline is subject to grant funding 5. Some of the information contained is estimated due to time constraints at the present time in sourcing the actual data

Oliver Boundy, executive director of development and growth at the association, notes: “The housing sector is undoubtedly facing many challenges, not only COVID-19 and Brexit but also cladding and building safety concerns, net zero carbon and EPC targets – all in the context of four years of rent reduction, reduced government grant and growing social care costs. Our commitment to deliver a first-class service to our residents and to play our part in overcoming the housing crisis and the mounting climate emergency has never been greater. The figures show that achieving these goals is not without risk and changes in the external operating environment present the occasional setback.”

Tenure split

Questions about whether landlords are fulfilling their social purpose inevitably mean looking not only at how many homes they are building, but also at who they are for and what tenure they are. This year’s data again points to why some of these questions might be asked, with the top 50 having built nearly as many for sale as they did for rent (they built 16,490 homes for sale tenures, compared with 18,248 taking in all rent tenures).

Affordable rent and low-cost homeownership make up the bulk of homes built by housing associations this year – with affordable rent by a small margin producing the highest number, 11,352 homes, and all in England, as this tenure does not exist in the rest of the UK. Low-cost homeownership, which includes shared ownership, was not far behind, with 10,700. The number of social rent homes completed by the Biggest Builders dropped 13% this year, from 5,727 to 5,009. But starts figures are more promising, showing that 7,667 social rent homes began construction in 2020/21.

“We are clear that, where we can, we should prioritise delivery of homes for social rent”

We can also see the impact of English associations seeking to build more social rent. The housing association building the most social rent homes this year is Bromford. Chief investment officer Martyn Blackman says this was a conscious decision: “A key part of our purpose is to provide affordable homes for people who can’t access market housing, and we believe in providing safe, secure and warm homes to enable our current and future customers to thrive. We are clear that, where we can, we should prioritise delivery of homes for social rent.”

Richard Cook, group director of development at Clarion, which placed third in the top 50, notes that 90% of its 2,126 completions this year were in “affordable tenures”.

One Housing said its drop in completions this year is due to a change in strategy to build more affordable homes. Mike Johnson, group director of development, says: “The reduction in the number of homes we built last year is the result of a natural dip in the programme as we trade out the old strategy, and our new homes delivery will start to increase over the next few years.”

Housing Plus Group, another to drop out of the top 50, after completing 191 homes, told us in its submission: “Our original target for 2020/21 was 316. This was revised down to 249 in August 2020 and 191 eventually delivered.”

It notes that there were many issues that fed into this. Sales delays at solicitors – with shared ownership customers not being prioritised – delayed completions. Stockpiling of materials by national house builders has impacted local builders. One of its contractors liquidated for reasons unrelated to the pandemic, but the association noted that this led to it having to re-tender the work “and [we] have had to pay far more than we predicted, definitely a pandemic impact”.

All this paints a vivid picture of the sorts of roadblocks that have impacted on the sector. As you will see below, it has had an impact as much on those that have managed to build large numbers, as those that have seen numbers drop.

Top 10 completions as proportion of stock – 2021

Housing association How many homes do you own/manage (2021)? Total completions 2020/21 Completions as a percentage of total stock
Hightown 7,203 429 5.96%
Link 8,768 477 5.44%
Hillcrest 7,808 360 4.61%
Clanmil 5,557 254 4.57%
Origin Housing 7,360 313 4.25%
Nottingham Community 9,903 347 3.50%
Network Homes 18,567 620 3.34%
Coastline 5,034 160 3.18%
Vivid 32,123 1,010 3.14%
Watford Community 5,101 157 3.08%

Source: Inside Housing survey

The fate of Section 106 and Section 75

Four in 10 of the 34,753 homes completed last year by the top 50 were bought from developers under Section 106 deals – or Section 75, as the policy is known as in Scotland.

This is essentially the same proportion as last year. Even though we heard from many landlords that they are moving away from buying up affordable housing built by private developers, this shows that it continues to be significant. Half of the five-year development pipeline is expected to come from Section 106 or Section 75.

However, there are still plenty of signs that housing associations expect to and want to be building more soon. The top 50 housing associations with the biggest development pipelines expect to build 44,262 homes this year, and 234,658 in the next five years.

That is actually an 18% increase in that long-term pipeline figure, as last year the same question recorded an answer of only 199,387. Obviously, the further ahead in time you look, the less certain those figures become. But the top 50 told us that they have sites secured for 48% of those homes – and the reality is likely a higher proportion, because not all landlords provided information on the number of sites they have secured.

As usual, the sector will have to wait and see if it is actually able to deliver on those numbers. As the past year has proved more than ever, plans can quickly become derailed.

Top 10 associations building the most social rent homes – 2021

Housing association Total completions 2020/21 Of these, how many were for social rent? Social rent as a percentage of completions
Bromford 902 377 41.8%
Wheatley 413 329 79.7%
Hillcrest 360 327 90.8%
Pobl 478 282 59.0%
Wales & West 287 281 97.9%
Platform 909 254 27.9%
Link 477 236 49.5%
Clanmil 254 233 91.7%
Vivid 1,010 226 22.4%
LiveWest 785 211 26.9%

Source: Inside Housing survey



Top 10 associations building the most low-cost homeownership homes – 2021

Housing association Total completions 2020/21 Of these, how many were for low-cost homeownership? Low-cost homeownership as a percentage of completions
Clarion 2,126 1,183 55.64%
L&Q 2,694 710 26.35%
Metropolitan Thames Valley 923 475 51.46%
Sovereign 1,099 474 43.13%
Notting Hill Genesis 1,276 394 30.88%
Peabody Trust 1,176 376 31.97%
Platform Housing Group 909 373 41.03%
Abri (Radian) 801 341 42.57%
Aster Group 928 339 36.53%
Vivid Housing 1,010 319 31.58%

Source: Inside Housing survey

Risers and fallers

Poplar Harca’s Jolles House development in east London
Poplar Harca’s Jolles House development in east London

Overall numbers of homes being built fell, but within that sector-wide figure there are many different stories to be found.

Not everyone’s numbers are down. It is worth a look at some of those that bucked the trend. Take Link Group in Scotland, whose completions more than trebled from 131 to 477, making
it a new entry into the top 50 at number 31. “In short, Link has upscaled its development programme in response to the Scottish government’s commitment for ‘more homes’,” says Colin Culross, commercial director at the association. Its approach has been to develop a number of large projects, which has resulted in a high number of completions over a short period of time.

Although that is undoubtedly a huge increase, Link’s appraisal
of its performance is muted. “Our original target for 2020/21 was 1,654 properties but we only delivered one-third of this,” the housing association noted as it sent us its data. That figure, if achieved, would have put it in the top 10 associations in the UK.

The Scottish government shut down construction in the country for a full three months, much longer than in England, which has had an impact on the outcomes for all Scottish landlords in the table.

The Guinness Partnership is another landlord with a huge year-on-year increase, of 154%, which catapulted it to 25th in our table this year. Jon Milburn, development director at the housing association, says: “We have been regrowing the development programme over the last two, three years. We bought a lot of land in 2018/19, early 2020, getting planning on that and bringing it to the construction phase.
So you would expect the number of our completions to be growing year-on-year for the next three to four years.”

He says that Guinness also benefited from extensive work to keep contractors onside in the first lockdown last year. “We put a lot of work into ensuring our contractors’ financial stability – pay up on time, give them and their banks the assurance that we were going to continue to pay and wouldn’t seek to punish our contractor partners for lateness on site,” he says.

Even so, Guinness also built fewer homes than it expected to. Mr Milburn says: “But for COVID, we’d probably have achieved about 650 completions.”

For some, though, the past year has seen a significant drop: 20%
of last year’s top 50 have fallen out of the table. The biggest absence is the mystery of Swan, which despite building 708 homes last year – placing it at number 19 – has refused to respond to this year’s survey. Normally Inside Housing receives a 100% response rate from the biggest 100 housing associations, and most of the biggest 150, so this is an anomaly.

Elsewhere, landlords fell out on dramatic declines. Southern saw the biggest – a 78% year-on-year drop from 419 completions, which put it 37th in last year’s table, to 93 this year.

Oliver Boundy, executive director of development and growth at Southern, says: “We remain committed to achieving our ambitious development programme. However, the safety, well-being and support of our existing customers, staff and contractors is always our priority. During the pandemic, this has meant some development activities understandably have had to progress more slowly than originally scheduled. The impact of the first lockdown and social distancing restrictions, for example, resulted in considerable delays to completion, particularly at some of the group’s larger sites. Some sites which were due to complete in the year have experienced delays.”

Next year the association expects to complete 371 homes, which may indicate that this year is a bit of a blip.

Poplar Harca, which also dropped out of the listing after completions fell from 470 to 154 homes, noted that this was because of cyclical patterns in its development programme. It said that it has 600 homes on site currently, and 4,000 in its pipeline.

Methodology

We send an extensive survey to the biggest housing associations in the UK, ranked by the number of homes they own and manage. This produced a table of data from 138 housing associations. The exception this year is Swan – although this association built 708 homes in 2019/20, placing it 19th in the league table, this year it has refused to provide data.

From that, we chose the top 50 Biggest Builders by completions – the ones that completed the most homes between April 2020 and March 2021.

We also have a top 50 Biggest Builders by pipeline – the organisations that expect to build the most in the current financial year, or between April 2021 and March 2022.

We ask about the tenure of homes being built and how they are financed.

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