The boss of the UK’s largest housing association developer L&Q talks to Carl Brown about net zero, her frustrations with government and plans for expansion in the north west
Conversations about London’s housing market are presumably never far below the surface in Fiona Fletcher-Smith’s household.
The boss of L&Q, the biggest developing housing association in the UK, is married to Jamie Carswell, director of housing at Greenwich council and co-chair of the London Councils Directors’ Group. “It makes it quite useful for housing associations and local authorities having sensible conversations,” chuckles Fletcher-Smith. It brings a whole new meaning to the phrase ‘partnership working’.
You may certainly forgive Fletcher-Smith for wanting to talk about the housing crisis more at home currently. Large housing associations like hers are facing tough choices about how to prioritise spend during a cost-of-living crisis, housing supply shortages and the need to ensure existing stock is safe and energy-efficient.
Balancing these concerns led L&Q last year to scrap its ambitious plan to build 10,000 homes over 10 years. It started this ramping up of development and built 4,157 homes last year, by far the biggest ever annual total by any housing association in the UK. It expects to complete a similar number this year as homes started under the previous plan complete, but the numbers will then drop to around 3,000 a year as it focuses more spend on existing stock.
While remaining very pro-development- L&Q’s scaled back 3,000 homes-a-year plan still dwarves all other associations’ - the group is now putting more investment into other areas.
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