I spent the first 15 years or so of my life in HA Development learning on the job. Then I started reading and discovered how much faster one can learn, and how very slow on-the-job learning tends to be. I quite often mention this on training courses. So I’m sometimes asked what reading I’d recommend for Development / Regeneration staff – so I thought I’d better try and answer. Hence this post.

You will understand that this is just my list – there are a million books out there about the different activities in residential development and project management. I’ve not read them all (or even a fraction of them all), so this isn’t a list of the ‘best’. But it is a sub- set of my books – the ones I found most useful and easiest to read and understand.

The Basics

  • Developing Affordable Housing, National Housing Federation, 2017; ISBN: 978 0 86297 593 7…THE book to read,  written specifically for you guys, suitable for everyone whether they have 0 days or 10+ years of experience.
  • Project Management Demystified (3rd ed) by Geoff Reiss, 2007…..an easy read to introduce you to a few of the main approaches to project management. It even has a few (pretty corny) jokes in it, which is more than can be said for most of this reading list! But really you should be taking the 2-day Project Fundamentals Qualification, and then moving onto the Project Management Qualification, which is a recognised professional qualification. Have a look on our Open Course Programme for details (PFQ course and PM4AHD course respectively).
  • Understanding Development Appraisal, National Housing Federation, ISBN: 9780862975869… Financial appraisals are examples of “blackbox technologies”. We can see what goes in, and we can see what comes out, but we have no idea what’s going on in the important middle bit. This book explains. Read it, and get a much better understanding of what all those acronyms (PP, NPV, IRR, ROCE etc) really mean.
  • Guide to JCT Design and Build Contract 2016, RIBA Publishing; ISBN: 9781859466414…a short and very readable book that takes you through the main clauses in the building contract usually used  by Development teams. Professor Sarah Lupton explains the duties of the parties simply and clearly. Read this, and rapidly discover that you know more about the building contract than your Employer’s Agent, the site manager and (probably) the Contract Manager. This book lives permanently in my work rucksack so I always have it with me whenever discussions about on-site matters arise.

The Next Steps

  • APM Project Management Qualification (PMQ) Study Guide (7th edition), APM. This book runs through the main tools and techniques used in effective project management. As it says, it’s the pre-course preparation for taking the  PMQ exam, and obtaining that recognised professional qualification. It includes descriptions of the ways of understanding, planning and controlling the key aspects of projects, such as managing scope, quality, risks, stakeholders, change, resources, configurations, information management and more. All these tools help the PM deliver more closely to time and budget, and achieve the required quality, and – crucially – understand their job more fully. We offer a training course that provides this qualification, the Project Management for Affordable Housing Development. Details are on our Open Courses webpage.
  • Housing Standards Handbook, National Housing Federation, 2016…..this is the NHF’s current version of a ‘standard’ Design Brief for RPs, and so is a benchmark of good practice against which you could compare your own Design Brief requirements. It also contains some brief useful explanations about design issues. However, there is more extensive explanation of design issues in the previous edition, entitled Standards & Quality in Development (2008). This is no longer in print, but nearly all HAs(and their architects) had a hard copy or two, so it might be in a dusty cupboard in your (or their) office. Borrow it for a while!
  • Achieving Building for Life by HATC….”Building for Life” is an aid to producing good estate layouts (known as urban design). Originally 20 prompts, it has since been reduced to 12, although they cover pretty much the same issues as in the original 20. This document was our attempt to write the “Ladybird Book of Urban Design” for Development/Regen staff who have no training in this area (nearly all of us). the structure of Building for Life may have changed slightly, but the explanations in the text are still highly applicable. The good news is that it is a free pdf download, available here.
  • The Housing Design Handbook by David Levitt.  Not only did David help found Levitt Bernstein, the VERY well-known architectural practice, but he also heloped found Circle 33 HT (now Clarion Group) AND Ealing Family HA (now Catalyst HG)! A titan of the affordable housing movement. This book is a review of the pros and cons of different estate and dwelling designs, based on case studies, and considered against a variey of criteria such as internal space, security, privacy, mix of uses, sustainability and more. Really useful to understand a wider range of housing design issues than are normally addressed by Development staff.
  • Town and Country Planning in the UK by Barry Cullingworth et al. ISBN 0415492289. A chunky tome, and you certainly won’t need the sections on EU law, and the non-residential parts of it, but it provides a thorough grounding in the land-use planning system. Just read the chapters that are relevant to you.
  • Building Construction Handbook by Chudley and Greeno, 12th ed (2020)…a good “starter” book on construction, but not one to read from cover to cover in one go. Before going to site, check out what type of work will be going on (putting in foundations, installing roof structures, electrical first fix etc), then read the relevant pages in the book before you go. It makes the site visit more useful and means you take it in bite -sized chunks. 

There are obviously many more books on these topics as well as other subjects such as valuation, conveyancing etc. And, of course, Internet searches on specific topics will yield much information,  some of which is reliable!

I hope this helps.

Andrew Drury.