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Best practice and guidance

Sharing our expertise and experience through best practice and guidance is a key part of our enabling role, and we have published or worked with our partners on a number of documents to helping local authorities and other partners to maximise delivery in their areas. Please note that some of these documents may be a couple of years old and so data (such as costs) should be used with care.

We also have a library of external guidance and research that may be of use, available through downloads and synopses. To search through this library click on 'advanced search' in the top right and include 'Report', 'Learning Material' and 'Toolkit/Guide' in the search criteria.

Case studies are also available by using the search function or searching by topic and keyword.

Good practice and guidance

Quality counts 2012-13

Quality Counts 2012-13

Each year the HCA undertakes a resident and partner survey to obtain feedback on the quality and design aspects of homes funded under the Affordable Homes Programme. This report summarises the 2012-13 results based on visits to 99 schemes and interviews with over 200 residents.

 Quality Counts -  PDF (1.2MB)

Urban Design Lessons

Lessons learnt from 100 design proposals and financial data submitted for the DPP2 panel procurement. The report shows that good urban design does not have to cost more and can have many benefits. Key urban design principles are illustrated by layout examples, demonstrating good practice and areas for consideration.

The lessons may inform future design proposals, assist in the assessment of bids and improve the quality of housing-led developments.

Urban Design Lessons

 D&S Cover

Design and Sustainability Business Plan

We aim to embed high quality design and sustainability in what we and our partners do, to improve the quality, environment and homes of people and their communities. To do this, the Business Plan for the Design and Sustainability team outlines the team’s core objectives to enable the Agency to meet its statutory objective within the Housing Regeneration Act 2008.

Design and Sustainability Business Plan 2013-15 - PDF (523KB)

 Quality Counts

Quality Counts 2011/12

Quality Counts summarises the main findings of a series of Quality Assurance and Impact Visits carried out by the HCA for homes delivered under the Agency’s Affordable Homes Programme 2011/12, across 120 schemes nationwide.

 Quality Counts -  PDF (523KB)


Quality Counts 2008–11

Quality Counts summarises the main findings of a series of Quality Assurance and Impact Visits carried out by the HCA for homes delivered under the Agency’s National Affordable Housing Programme (NAHP) 2008-11, across 520 schemes nationwide.

Quality Counts 2008–11 - PDF (365KB)


Building for Life

Building for Life is the national standard for well-designed homes and neighbourhoods.

Building for Life - PDF (408KB)

Urban Design Compendium (2008)

Guidance on good urban design – summarising the principles of urban design, how they can be applied and the processes which lead to successful places.

Urban Design Compendium site and PDFs


Does Money Grow on Trees  - Cabe publication 2005

This report by Cabe illustrates the contribution of good quality green space in terms of the desirability of a local area for residents and businesses.

Does Money Grow on Trees - PDF (3.1MB)


The Value of Urban Design – Cabe publication 2001

A research project commissioned by CABE and DETR to examine the value added by good urban design

The Value of Urban Design - PDF (963KB)


Non mainstream housing design guidance (2012)

A wealth of design guidance already exists for housing for older people and supported housing for vulnerable groups. This review brings together the range of existing guidance and to direct partners to the most relevant design guidance for a specific development type or user group.

Non Mainstream Housing Design Guidance - PDF (2.84MB)

Design and quality (2010)

Quality Reviewer is a guide to help non-experts, particularly those in local authorities, to appraise the design quality of planning applications. This guide will help you to get a better understanding of the planning application process and empower you to comprehensively appraise them to determine their quality.

Quality Reviewer


Historic English Partnerships standards (2007)

Quality Reviewer is a guide to help non-experts, particularly those in local authorities, to appraise the design quality of planning applications. This guide will help you to get a better understanding of the planning application process and empower you to comprehensively appraise them to determine their quality.

Historic English Partnerships standards - PDF (1.85MB)

Heritage Works: The use of historic buildings in regeneration (2013)

A detailed guide to using heritage assets in regeneration projects.

Heritage and Historic Characterisation (2009)

'How to' Guide outlining a new development-led approach to masterplanning which advocates assessing the historic character of a site.

Capitalising on the inherited landscape

Heritage Assets Biennial Report (2009-2011)

This report outlines the diversity and scale of the HCA’s contribution to bringing heritage assets forward for redevelopment while also preserving their historic character. Includes 51 listed buildings and 14 Scheduled Ancient Monuments.

HCA Heritage Assets Biennial Report - PDF (6MB)

Car Parking: What works where (2006)

This toolkit highlights the most appropriate car parking approach according to density of development and housing typology. It takes stock of common car parking treatments and reviews how successful they are in providing adequate levels of safe parking with a high quality environment.


Manual for Streets 1&2 (2007 & 2010)

Aims to reduce the impact of vehicles on residential streets by asking practitioners to plan street design intelligently and proactively, and gives a high priority to the needs of pedestrians, cyclists and users of public transport

Manual for Streets

Rural Housing and Masterplanning (2011)

This document identifies key lessons from those projects along with 12 case studies that provide a brief snapshot of the types of work undertaken by local authorities through the Fund.

Rural Masterplanning Fund - Lessons learned 

Rural Affordable Housing support and website

HAPPI report (2010)

The Housing our Ageing Population Panel for Innovation (HAPPI) has gathered good practice from across Europe and put together new and creative proposals to help put us at the forefront of housing for older people.

HAPPI details and report


Community Engagement and Stewardship

To ensure that future communities are successful, practitioners need to find the right recipe for local collaboration across sectors; involving residents in decision-making and long-term stewardship of new settlements.

Future Communities website

Communty Engagement Toolkit (2011)

HCA/LGA report - Meeting Local Housing Demand (2012)

This document is an enabling tool outlining what local authorities can do to help realise the housing aspirations of their communities, and what support we, along with the LGA, can offer.

Meeting Local Housing Demand - PDF (760KB)


Next Generation Benchmarks

NextGeneration benchmarks UK home builders performance in managing and delivering sustainable development.

Next Generation Benchmarks


UK Green Building Council

For access to the UK Green Building Council latest publications, useful links, accessing member case studies and sustainability topics visit the UKGBC resources page.

UK Green Building Council


Valuing Sustainable Urbanism 2007

This report by the Prince’s Foundation presents the case for sustainable urbanism.

Valuing Sustainable Urbanism - PDF (1.0MB)


Creating Strong Communities

This report describes the development of a framework to measure the social sustainability of new housing and mixed-use developments. The work was commissioned by the Berkeley Group and carried out by Social Life
and Tim Dixon, Professorial Chair in Sustainable Futures in the Built Environment at the University of Reading.

Creating Strong Communities - PDF (8.6MB)


Design for Social Sustainability

A framework and online resource for built environment professionals and policymakers involved in planning, design, and creating communities and cities.

Design for Social Sustainability


Future Communities

The Future Communities website where evidence and practical experience from a wide range of sources makes the case for the importance of social design in helping new communities to flourish, and the long term costs and consequences of not providing these supports.

Future Communities

Affordable Housing and S106

Social Sustainability

Process, Place, People. A short publication produced by John Thompson & Partners reflecting on the relationship between social sustainability and the design of new neighbourhoods.  This publication explores the challenges faced when thinking about social sustainability and draws on case study approaches and solutions from JTP's placemaking portfolio which includes Graylingwell Park, a joint venture between Linden Homes, Affinity Sutton and the HCA.  This publication is written by one of JTP's CABE's Built Environment Experts.

Affordable home ownership mortgage toolkit (2011)

Produced jointly by the HCA and CML brief guidance on the merits of keeping it simple when providing affordable home ownership and links to other useful documents which may assist organisations providing affordable home ownership, such as Mortgage access for affordable housing, advice on how to maximise the mortgageability of all types of affordable home.

Affordable home ownership mortgage toolkit

Shared Ownership Joint Guidance (2012)

Providing information for staff and professionals working in shared ownership on a range of issues.

Shared Ownership: Joint Guidance - PDF (300 KB) - updated November 2012

Investment and planning obligations: responding to the downturn (2009)

This document sets out the approach the HCA will take to help local authorities meet immediate housing need and ensure that when the upturn begins, a recovering market is not hampered by a proliferation of lapsed consents, or delays due to a glut of re-applications.

Investment and planning

S106 planning agreements and LCHO lending (2009)

Outlining the issues that arise for lenders when section 106 (s106) agreements or other planning controls are used that contain restrictive or variation clauses.

Section 106 Planning Agreements and LCHO lending - PDF (110 KB)

Empty Homes Toolkit

This toolkit pulls together the skills and experience of a large range of people and organisations experienced in bringing empty homes back into use



Design standards and housing quality indicators


Housing Quality Indicators

The Housing Quality Indicators system is a measurement and assessment tool designed to allow potential or existing housing schemes to be evaluated on the basis of quality rather than simply of cost.

Housing Quality Indicators

HCA Design and sustainability standards

Setting out our expectations of housing quality for the projects we support.

Design and sustainability standards (2007 - Affordable Housing)


London Housing Design Guide

For housing design guidelines within London.

London Housing Design Guide


Environmental Sustainability


Improving the energy efficiency of buildings

The latest government policy and information on energy efficient buildings.



Code for Sustainable Homes (Dec 2006)

The national standard for the sustainable design and construction of new homes to encourage continuous improvement in sustainable house building.

Code for Sustainable Homes - PDF (447KB)

Dealing Green: Options for Registered Providers (2012)

The Green Deal aims to make 14m homes more energy efficient by 2020, driving down energy bills, reducing CO2 and creating as many as 250,000 jobs. As part of our enabling role this guide, produced with Sustainable Homes is designed to help Registered Providers ask the right questions and make the right decisions about getting involved in the Green Deal.

Guide and report

Monitoring guide for carbon emissions, energy and water use (2011)

The Carbon Challenge programme will contribute to zero carbon by 2016. This report explains the monitoring framework and demonstrates the toolkit for carrying out monitoring and evaluation of occupant behaviour as opposed to relying solely on predictions from design models.

The Guide & Appendices

Design for Manufacture & Lessons Learnt (2006 & 2010)

Design for Manufacture and the Lessons Learnt documents show how affordable, sustainable and high quality housing can best be achieved throughout England. More information here and here.

Design for Manufacture Lessons Learnt 1 (2006)

Design for Manufacture Lessons Learnt 2 (2010)

Feed in Tariff (2011)

Explaining how the Feed In Tariff relates to schemes that have received HCA funding and clarifying issues about State Aid rules on double public subsidy.

Feed In Tariffs and HCA funding - PDF (41KB)

Low Carbon Infrastructure Fund (2011)

Programme to support the development of district heating (DH) infrastructure as part of the delivery of new homes.

Lessons Learned report

Sustainable Homes Index For Tomorrow (SHIFT) (2009)

HCA commissioned Sustainable Homes to carry out analysis of the data resulting from the operation of SHIFT, with case studies.

Sustainable Homes Index For Tomorrow (SHIFT)

Fit for the Future: the Green Homes Retrofit Manual (2008) 

This guidance pulls together in one place the key information that social landlords need in order to improve the environmental performance of their existing housing stock.

Fit for the Future



AIMC4 is a unique partnership that is pioneering the volume production of low carbon homes for the future. The AIMC4 consortium will develop and apply innovative materials, products and process to meet the government's Code for Sustainable Homes Level 4 energy standard, through innovative fabric solutions alone, thus embedding reduced carbon emissions within the performance of the dwelling

Working with government

Technical Housing Standards Review

The fundamental review by government of the building regulations framework and voluntary housing standards which aims to rationalise the large number of codes, standards, rules, regulations and guidance that add unnecessary cost and complexity to the house-building process

Growth, Economic Assessment and Viability

Total Capital (2010)

The HCA has been working with local authorities and other public agencies to develop the concept and test the potential benefit of a Total Capital approach to investment in places through five case studies. This report summarises the benefits and barriers identified, and suggests solutions and possible changes that may be necessary to make a Total Capital approach effective.

Total Capital PDF (97KB)

Employment densities guide (2010)

This updated guide provides advice to practitioners involved in regeneration and economic development projects on employment densities associated with different types of property use. The guide is the recognised industry-wide point of reference for projected job creation and is used by local authorities, developers and surveyors, to name a few. The updated guide includes more up to date information about how many jobs you can expect to accommodate in modern properties of different types, from industrial units to commercial offices.

Employment densities guide

Employment and skills guidance (2009)

The aim of our guidance document is to adopt a unified strategy across all of our investment programmes, whilst recognising individual approaches can be negotiated locally; determined by the priorities identified within Local Investment plans or by Local Enterprise Partnerships where these are in place.

HCA Approach

Toolkit for registered providers  &   Toolkit for developers and contractors

Viability tools

Our practical, experience-based tools help our partners with a variety of technical areas relating to housing, regeneration and economic growth

Economic Analysis (2006-present)

The HCA follows HM Treasury Green Book to assess the Economic Case of an intervention - the process of defining objectives, examining options and weighing up the costs, benefits, risks and uncertainties of those options. Support is available on request for:

Additionality; Value for Money; Contaminated Land Remediation Benchmarks; Cost Benefit Analysis; Valuing Regeneration; Assessing Optimism Bias; Housing Subsidy in Regeneration Benchmarks; Brownfield guidance; Endowments


National Land Use Database

Contains information on previously developed land and buildings in England that may be available for development, whether vacant, derelict, or still in productive use. Guidance notes for Local Authorities providing NLUD returns via Microsoft Excel or in a GIS format are available to download.

HCA NLUD guidance notes 2010 – PDF (90 KB)

Guidance notes for Local Authorities providing NLUD returns via the Data Entry Management Tool (DEMT) can be downloaded from the key documents page of the archived NLUD website. More information here.

Add to which folder?
Add to which folder?

Empty Homes Toolkit
Empty homes toolkit
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