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Lessons learned lead the way to better frameworks for JV North

SME builders will be given a realistic shot at tendering for work through JV North’s new framework, but this isn’t the only changes the organisation has introduced as it makes the most of the lessons it’s learned, explains Nigel Wilson

 

SOCIAL housing’s ability to adapt is one of its most endearing qualities. This has been especially true when it comes to development, and a prime example of this can be seen in JV North’s frameworks.

JV North is a consortium of 11 housing associations spanning Greater Manchester, Merseyside, Nottingham and Preston and on three separate occasions has changed its procurement to ensure members can build as many homes as possible.

We have run frameworks from 2009 – 2013 and 2013 – 2017 so our members could call off contractors and consultants for their home building programmes.

We have just launched our new framework - contractors and consultants have until 3 April to apply – and have implemented the lessons we have learned. For example, we found that having one framework that is open to all contractors and consultants is not specific enough.

In the 2011/15 and 2015/18 Affordable Homes Programmes, we had schemes of various values ranging from hundreds of thousands to multi-million pound schemes.

While the frameworks attracted some of the biggest contractors and consultancies in the UK and their work on schemes was very good – so much so that we want them to apply 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. This goes against one of the main reasons for running frameworks; for landlords to benefit from economies of scale.

To overcome this, we decided to split the 2017/21 framework into a two-tier system based on the value of the works being offered.

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 would be too beyond them.

We have acknowledged that smaller building companies who would be ideally suited to smaller projects do not have an easy route to work with members, so a separate procurement for all projects below £1 million has been introduced.

We believe that this will give the opportunity they require and in turn, make the tendering process for smaller schemes much more competitive.

Experience also tells us this new way of operating will see more benefits in members’ local communities by enhancing the excellent work they do with SME companies through jobs, training, apprentices and the buying of materials.

Again, to remove the frustration of not receiving tenders, we have increased the number of contractors on the list to 12 and introduced an additional stage in the process so that for each opportunity the contractors can self-select whether they decide to tender or not.

Another change we have made relates to modern methods of construction.

JV North members New Charter Housing Trust and Liverpool Mutual Homes have both delivered offsite home building projects, with the latter’s last year the largest scheme of its kind in social housing.

Both were pilot projects and worked well, but if we are to achieve the quantity of homes required going forward then we need as a consortium to pool offsite home building schemes together to make them more efficient.

To address this, the consortium is also seeking specialist contractors to deliver offsite projects in the 2017/21 framework.

A change not borne from experience but government policy relates to selling homes.

Traditionally we have built homes and then seen them rented immediately due to large waiting lists.

After receiving grant of £87.3 million from the Homes & Communities Agency for the 2017 – 2021 Shared Ownership Affordable Homes Programme, members committed £248.2 million of their own funds taking the overall total to £335.5 million.

The money will see members build nearly 3,000 new homes for shared ownership and rent with approximately 2,000 of these being delivered through the new framework starting in July.

Shared ownership presents different challenges, most notably selling properties so the consultants framework also requires employers’ agents, legal conveyancing and property valuation services.

We aspire to be clients that companies want to work for so we attract the best to the sector. In order to do so, we have to continually monitor ourselves and be flexible to make sure we deliver social housing’s remit.

 

Nigel Wilson is chairman of JV North and chief executive of Wythenshawe Community Housing Group

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