JUST under 17,000 new homes were built in the West Midlands last year – the most ever recorded in the region.
Figures published by the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) this week show that 16,938 new homes were built in the region across 2018/19, representing a 15.8 per cent increase on the previous year.
The authority currently has a target to build 215,000 new homes by 2031, something it appears on course to do with these latest figures.
However, papers also note that there remains a ‘considerable under supply of affordable housing.’
Last year 3,801 ‘affordable homes’ were built in the West Midlands, representing 22 per cent of the overall total – a figure which meets the WMCA’s 20 per cent target.
But figures also show that this housing ‘is particularly concentrated in certain pockets of the region’ – something which mayor Andy Street says needs to change if the WMCA’s house building drive is to be considered a success.
“Housebuilding is one of the West Midlands’ real success stories of the last few years and I am delighted that we are well ahead of schedule to build the 215,000 homes we need by 2031,” he said.
“The figures clearly show that the West Midlands is leading a brownfield-first housing revolution in the UK.
“What is most pleasing however is we are building the vast majority of new homes on brownfield land, protecting the region’s precious greenbelt. We are doing this through our brownfield first policy, which, thanks to cash from Government, sees the WMCA remediate derelict industrial sites that have sat untouched for decades.
“However there is plenty more still to be done, particularly around the number of affordable homes being built. To help tackle this the WMCA is introducing a new requirement that any housing development that uses WMCA funds must be at least 20% affordable.”
The London borough of Bexley is in the most need of new build housing stock out of any borough in London, research from Stone Real Estate has found.
Stone Real Estate looked at what proportion of homes listed on the major property portals were new build as a percentage of all stock listed, as well as the boroughs with highest demand based on the largest number of new build properties already listed as sold.
With just 2.5% of all stock currently listed as new builds, Bexley is home to the lowest level of new homes in the capital.
Other boroughs to rank with some of the lowest levels of new build stock are Redbridge (3.1%), Kensington and Chelsea (4%), Waltham Forest (4.2%) and Richmond (4.3%).
The City of London is home to the highest level of new homes with 29.9% of all stock listed for sale falling into the category. Tower Hamlets also ranks high at 23.6%, with Hackney (19.8%), Newham (15.9%) and Lambeth (14.7%) home to a good amount of new build stock.
The only borough to see a higher level of homebuyer demand for new build homes is Bromley with 40% of all new build homes already listed as sold. Sutton (30.2%), Kingston (26.9%) and Waltham Forest (26.8%) were also home to a large appetite for new builds.
While the City of London is home to the largest proportion of new build stock, it’s also home to the lowest level of new build homebuyer demand, with just 3.4% of all new builds listed marked as sold.
Michael Stone, founder and CEO of Stone Real Estate, said: “There’s no denying that we are in desperate need of more housing across the capital and a large proportion of that needs to be affordable, a factor that can often be overlooked when trying to balance the books.
“While house building is a complex task and certainly can’t be done overnight, the data does suggest that perhaps some of our new build efforts across the capital have been poorly targeted and in fact, some of the areas with the lowest level of new homes are the areas where buyers are crying out for them.
“It really is vital that we address the current housing crisis but we do so in a sensible manner to ensure that what we are building is available to those that need it, and doesn’t spend months languishing on the portals due to an unobtainable price tag, or a lack of buyer appetite.”
Westminster was the second-lowest at 7.7% and again, while Hackney and Tower Hamlets are home to some of the highest levels of new build stock, they also ranked low for buyer demand at 8.3% and 8.9% respectively.
The U.K. faces a significant housing challenge. In simple terms, there are not enough new homes being built each year to meet the demands of the population.
The U.K. government has set a target to see 300,000 new homes built annually by the mid-2020s in an attempt to solve the national housing shortage. So there is serious work to be done.
Lloyds Banking Group has an important role to play in helping people across Britain to get a home. The organization has made several pledges around housing as part of its most recent prosper plan and is making good progress towards them. A healthy housing market is a key indicator of broader economic strength and that’s why housing is core to the Group’s commitment to help Britain prosper.
Forming a new type of partnership
Housing Growth Partnership (HGP) is a social-impact equity investor. It was established in 2015 as a joint venture between Lloyds Banking Group and Homes England. The formation was unique — the first housing focused public—private partnership with the U.K. government.
When we established the partnership, we had two very clear and specific goals in mind: to support the sustainable growth of regional residential developers across the U.K. through investment and mentoring; and to accelerate housing delivery. We know that one of the chief obstacles preventing small firms from growing and developing in the housing industry is capital constraints, and we established the partnership to help with this. HGP invests in residential projects, freeing up housebuilder equity that can be used on other schemes.
HGP was founded with an initial £100 million of seed capital and, following additional investment, now has nearly £1 billion-worth of homes under construction across the U.K. — over 3,000 new homes.
We’ll kick start the construction of another 1,000 homes by 2020 and aim to have delivered 10,000 homes by 2025.
First and foremost we’re focused on building homes. We’re already funding the build of thousands of new houses across the country. We’ll kick start the construction of another 1,000 homes by 2020 and aim to have delivered 10,000 homes by 2025.
Funding is one part of the puzzle, but the role of HGP goes beyond simply investing money. It seeks to be a genuine partner. We’re developing long-term relationships with smaller housebuilders, helping them to grow their businesses and the number of homes they are able to build across Britain. In fact, over the last 12 months our senior adviser panel of housing experts from across the U.K. has delivered more than 1,000 hours of free mentoring to small housebuilders. We all benefit when these firms can overcome those initial entry barriers, establish themselves in the industry and grow.
Addressing systemic challenges in the housing industry
It’s clear through the conversations we have with U.K. housebuilders that they face challenges at all stages of the development process.
A fundamental issue is the supply of skilled labor. I’m meeting with more and more of our partners who are looking to address this by employing apprentices. Many have formed connections with their local colleges and education centers, and are actively encouraging young people into the sector. Getting youngsters involved and engaged in housing helps create a pipeline of future leaders and also brings in a diverse range of innovative thinking.
This is where the partnership can make the most impact. By investing in companies across the housing supply chain, we can help firms employ more people, develop specialist skills and create more opportunities in the future.
We also lobby for crucial change across the industry and drive financial innovation in the sector. The determination of planning permissions, alongside the growing number of consented conditions to satisfy ahead of starting work on-site is a particular area of concern for housebuilders.
It’s clear through the conversations we have with U.K. housebuilders that they face challenges at all stages of the development process.
This complex and often difficult process limits their ability to grow their businesses and, in turn, increase the supply of new homes to the U.K. market. We are working hard with our partners to understand the key issues within the U.K. planning system and identify what can be done to address them. Alongside this, we are also looking at how we can support developers to introduce Modern Methods of Construction into their building processes.
Finding new solutions to the challenge of a skills and labor shortage, alongside the need to increase the speed of production and develop more energy-efficient homes will be key to the future success of the industry.
New solutions to housing challenges
We’re often asked ‘what comes next?’ There is so much innovation and development in housing at the moment and it’s evolving quickly. At the moment we are seeing a strong focus on Modern Methods of Construction.
What’s fascinating about this type of production is how efficient it is to produce units in a controlled environment — an environment that crucially, is weather proof. This could be a real game changer in the U.K.
What’s clear though is that the U.K.’s housing challenges cannot be solved in isolation. Genuine collaboration, both across the industry and in partnership with the U.K. government, will be crucial in driving further innovation and overcoming the challenges that the industry faces.
Twenty new homes are being built in The Meadows area of Nottingham which will go to local families on Nottingham’s council house waiting list.
On behalf of Nottingham City Council – Nottingham City Homes (NCH) and contractor Woodhead Group will develop the homes on the site of the former Clifton Miners Welfare on Ainsworth Drive.
The two-bed houses are expected to be completed in spring 2020.
After planning permission was approved last year, these new homes are the latest for the Meadows area which form part of the city’s Building a Better Nottingham programme and follow the completion of 55 homes in June 2018.
Nick Murphy, chief executive at Nottingham City Homes, said: “There has been significant regeneration in the Meadows and we have invested in creating new homes there over the last few years. We are now creating a further 20 good quality new council homes – homes that people can be proud of and that they want to live in.
“Not only is it a busy year for us in terms of developments, we are also celebrating 100 years of council housing, when councils were first given the task of developing where it was needed. A hundred years later this is still our vision; we want to build warm and secure family homes that the people of Nottingham can afford to live in and these new properties will be no exception”.
Cllr Linda Woodings, portfolio holder for planning and housing at Nottingham City Council, said: “Working together with Nottingham City Homes and other partners, we are transforming Nottingham’s neighbourhoods, by regenerating sites which are no longer fit for purpose and replacing them with new, warm, safe and quality homes.
“Together we’re giving sites like the one in the Meadows a new purpose whilst creating opportunities for jobs and training and providing much needed housing which Nottingham people can afford to buy or rent in communities where people want to live and work”.
Leo Woodhead, director at Woodhead Group said: “Nottingham City Homes and Nottingham City Council share our commitment to deliver social value while building quality new homes. Having delivered the first ever CCS housing UltraSite together, we learned a lot and are really looking forward to working closely with the community and our supply chain partners to create a better experience for all.”
Tunbridge Wells town would be better protected from large scale new house building if the council proposal goes ahead to put 6,800 homes at Tudeley and Paddock Wood.
The controversial proposal for the tiny village in the heart of the countryside and the small town were officially unveiled this week to parish councils.
Residents were getting to grips with the shock of the proposition put forward by Tunbridge Wells Borough Council. which is grappling with a housing target more than doubled by the Government, to reach 13,500 new homes in the 20 years up to 2036. This is around 680 each year.
But while two areas could be changed forever during a timescale council leader Alan McDermott put at “probably 25 years” – Tunbridge Wells, which for years has seen controversial infilling, office conversions to residential, sizeable brownfield developments and new estates built or under way, might get something of a breather.
The proposals are in the draft Local Plan which will go out for public consultation in the early autumn.
Head of planning Steve Baughen said: “These strategies reduced the impact on the area of outstanding natural beauty compared to some of the other potential options, for example a more dispersed pattern of development across the borough.
“Similarly, this option does not add such intense pressure to the existing infrastructure as much as other options would – for example, if the vast majority of the development were to be around the main urban area, Tunbridge Wells and Southborough.”
Mr McDermott said new infrastructure, potentially including schools, drainage, utility links, a road off the A228, doctors’ surgeries and employment development, would be built as part of the Tudeley and Paddock Wood proposal.
Talking of the council’s track record in Tunbridge Wells as the planning authority, Mr Baughen said: “We always look to prioritise previously developed land and the redevelopment of previously developed land but as you are seeing, a lot of the sites which have been identified as suitable for redevelopment sites in the previous Local Plan and the Site Allocation Local Plan now have planning permission or indeed are being built out.”
He added: “This is a finite resource but this Local Plan looks again to make sure that suitable sites within the urban areas are being identified and allocated but a number of them have permission already.”
Petrina Lambert, who lives in Brampton Bank, Tudeley, said: “Our first reactions were shock, distress, upset then extremely angry.
“The whole idea made us feel sick. We moved here to live in a rural community that was now going to be destroyed.
“Why so many homes? 4,000 in Paddock Wood and 2,800 here in Tudeley. Tunbridge Wells borough has to build 13,000 new homes but why 6,800 in a four square mile radius? What about the rest of the district?
“There is also the development at Woodgate Way in Tonbridge only two miles away and no infrastructure in place to support this and a new development with a sudden and large increase in this area’s population.
“It is the destruction of a small and happy community and that of an area of outstanding natural beauty that upsets us most and there are not the right words to describe the loss.”
The Local Plan will go out to public consultation
The original housing target of 6,000 new homes for Tunbridge Wells was more than doubled by the Government to 13,500 during the past few years.
The Local Plan, an evergreen and constantly updating document, is in its 2016 to 2036 planning period.
In order to work out how many homes need to be built in the future, the council must take account of the housing which has already been built or permitted since 2016.
This leaves 9,000 homes – and the council is putting forward Tudeley, which is little more than a large cluster of homes, and Paddock Wood, which had a 8,253 population in 2011, for around 6,800 of them.
The explosive proposal was unveiled officially to parish councils on Monday and Tuesday nights, although the borough council said it had been working with the parishes behind the scenes.
The council said by building homes on such a large scale rather than ad hoc, proper planning could go into infrastructure.
The Local Plan will go out to consultation in September/October and again a final consultation on the final Local Plan next September before submission to the Planning Inspectorate in December 2020. It will be examined formally in the spring or summer of 2021.
Fife Council has approved an investment plan which aims to deliver 3,500 new homes by 2022. Fife Housing Partnership’s Strategic Housing Investment Plan (SHIP) for 2019-2022 was recently approved by the council’s Community and Housing Services Committee.
It focuses on the delivery of social housing by Fife Council and the Fife Housing Association Alliance over the next four years.
The strong partnership approach between Fife Council and the Fife Housing Association Alliance, enables partners to plan future funding to make best use of resources.
Cllr Judy Hamilton, convener of the community & housing services committee, said: “We remain absolutely committed to meeting the housing needs of people of Fife. There is no doubt in my mind that good quality, warm and safe housing is a determinant of health and well-being. It is the bedrock of strong communities.
“The Strategic Housing Investment Plan outlines a mix of potential development projects, providing Fife with a realistic and practical plan to deliver the vital homes that the people of Fife need. Fife Council and the Fife Housing Association Alliance have an ambitious programme to build 3,500 new affordable homes across the Kingdom by 2022 through Fife’s Strategic Housing Investment Plan.”
The UK government has announced another £250m for building desperately-needed new homes across England.
A new round of housing deals is the latest in a series of steps taken by the government as it strives towards its goal of building 300,000 new homes each year.
As part of this, £157m will be invested for new infrastructure in Cumbria and Devon, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) said.
The money will pay for a new motorway link between south Carlisle and the M6, unlocking up to 10,000 new homes at St Cuthbert’s Garden Village.
In Devon, £55m will be spent on road improvements and other infrastructure so 2,500 homes can be built to the south-west of Exeter.
In addition, 1,500 homes will be built in London’s Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park following a £78m loan from Homes England.
The loan is part of the government’s £4.5bn Home Building Fund, which provides development and infrastructure finance to home builders.
The first phase of the development is expected to end in summer 2021, with full completion by 2028, the MHCLG said.
The UK is currently facing its biggest housing shortfall on record, with a backlog of almost 4 million homes, according to research by Heriot-Watt University.
James Brokenshire, communities secretary, said: “We delivered 222,000 homes last year, which is the highest number in a decade, but we must keep upping our game.
“We are invoking the spirit of Britain’s post-war push to build as we strive to hit our target of 300,000 new homes a year by the mid-2020s, for the first time since the days of Harold Macmillan.
“By investing in infrastructure, freeing up public sector land and offering targeted loans we are making the housing market work.
“These deals struck today will help us build almost 25,000 more homes – which is another symbolic step towards our homebuilding targets.”
A new partnership by Homes England will create 10,000 properties on Ministry of Defence land on seven military bases – with the potential for surplus army land to be used in the future.
Tobias Ellwood, minister for defence, people and veterans, said: “As we work to make our military bases more modern and efficient, it’s important that former MOD land is used in a way which serves local residents and the economy.
“This new partnership underlines our commitment to helping housebuilding in this country and will provide good value for money to taxpayers.”
Sites will be developed at bases RAF Henlow, MOD Site 4, Swynnerton Training Camp, Claro and Deverell Barracks, MDPGA Wethersfield, Prince William of Gloucester Barracks and Chetwynd Barracks.
The Scottish Government could struggle to meet its target to build 50,000 homes by 2021 due to a lack of workers, industry bosses have suggested.
At the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday, the Economy, Energy and Fair Work Committee was told the impact of Brexit, as well as large projects in England, had reduced the number of people available to work on projects.
Concerns were raised by a panel of construction sector leaders that the reduction, combined with too few young people entering the industry, could lead to an insufficient number of Scottish workers being available to build new housing.
Unite the union’s Steven Dillon suggested that following the completion of large projects in Scotland such as the Queensferry Crossing and the Aberdeen bypass, workers have been making the move to England in search of work.
Mr Dillon said: “One of the biggest problems we’re going to have with building houses is the labour market.
“There’s a lot of major problems starting in England, such as HS2 and Hinkley Point, and it’s going to drain the Scottish economy of crafts people.
“That’s one of the major concerns this committee should have. We’re going to have a skills shortage when the contract on HS2 takes off.
“The amount of Scottish workers that have moved down to Hinkley Point … you need to look at that if you’re talking about building these houses.
“It may be a case of boosting apprentice numbers, for example, so that we can build these houses.
“The workers are critical no matter what you do because it’s not going to be built using a computer.”
Hew Edgar, interim head of UK policy for the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors in Scotland, indicated the availability of large projects could help to attract and retain workers.
“The Queensferry Crossing was a great piece of work,” said Mr Edgar.
“It was what we would consider a mega-project. The problem in Scotland now is that we don’t have a mega-project to look forward to.
“So the talent and the labour force that was attracted to Scotland to work on this project have now left to seek employment.
“It would be prudent of the Scottish Government to ensure that there’s a pipeline of mega-projects or large-scale projects that would entice talent to come to Scotland and work and also to remain”.
Ian Rogers, Scottish Decorators Federation chief executive, said the UK’s departure from the EU would also cause problems for the sector with fewer workers from Europe being available.
He also suggested the construction industry would be forced to compete with other sectors, including retail and the hotel trade, in attracting new apprentices.
“We’re now looking at Brexit as a no-deal possibly,” Mr Rogers said.
“That is going to stop the inflow of labour because it won’t meet the government’s minimum wage criteria in some areas.”
“We’ll then be fishing in a pond that everybody’s fishing in for apprentices.”
Simon Rawlinson, of Arcadis, representing the Construction Leadership Council, said: “I think it’s important that the committee recognises that the supply chain and the labour force involved in the delivery of housing is almost completely different to the supply chain that is involved in the delivery of large civil engineering projects.”
Housing bosses in Wolverhampton are set to discuss plans for 20 new homes on the site of a derelict former adventure playground, as part of an ongoing drive to combat homelessness in the city.
The council this week warned private landlords that any homes left empty for long periods of time will be seized and used to provide accommodation for needy families – with houses in Bilston and Pennfields among the latest.
Alongside the council’s Empty Properties Strategy, it is anticipated that the continued residential development of suitable empty areas of land in the borough will help to drive down the numbers of homeless families and rough sleepers in the city.
The site of the former Old Fallings Adventure Playground, which finally closed in November last year following repeated episodes of vandalism, has now been earmarked for a new housing development.
The city council’s Scrutiny Board is set to discuss the matter next month.
Councillor Peter O’Neill, chairman of the council’s Children, Young People and Families Scrutiny Panel, said: “Now that this site has been declared as ‘surplus’, it could instead be used to build much-needed new housing which would greatly revitalise the surrounding area.
“There is a desperate need for housing in the area and we have been working with Wolverhampton Homes and other partners to look at ways in which we can develop it.
“The area is about two and-a-half acres in size and a housing project would mean it is likely to be a building site for a couple of years.
“However, we are actively looking at whether it could be used to help meet the growing demand for new housing in the city by developing around 20 properties on the site.”
The latest two privately owned long-term empty homes identified for compulsory purchase orders by the council this week are located in Beckett Street, Bilston, and Rayleigh Road, Pennfields.
Despite the increasing demand for new housing in Wolverhampton, a recent survey conducted by national firm Attic Self Storage revealed that the number of long-term vacant properties in the West Midlands has steadily improved over the years, with 26,402 in 2004, 10,867 in 2013 and 9,778 by the end of 2017.
During this period Wolverhampton reported an improvement rate of 0.6 per cent behind Walsall and Sandwell.
The Shelter housing commission’s report (Cross-party call to build 3m new social homes, 8 January) stands in danger of simply racking up change-of-use inflation in land prices, putting the unearned value uplift of as much as 70% into the pockets of speculators. Unless the basic structure of housing provision in the UK is changed to restore to local authorities powers of compulsory purchase, with taxation on the land-value enhancement, this will be the unintended consequence.
The result of right-to-buy has been the sell-off of 60,000 council homes with a £3.5bn public subsidy, and 40% of that stock finding its way into the hands of private landlords, who rent it back, often to the same local authority at hugely inflated rates. A straight transfer of public wealth into private hands.
Have the report’s authors studied the 2016 research that showed unimplemented planning consents for nearly half a million homes in England and Wales? Or that in the same year, according to government data analysed by the online estate agent HouseSimple, the number of empty homes in England rose for the first time in a decade to 205,293, representing £50bn worth of vacant property stock?
Research shows that there is little evidence of a shortfall in the housing stock. The crisis we suffer from is largely the result of acute maldistribution within an economic structure which encourages maximum consumption of a scarce resource by those with the means to command the market, at the expense of the many with little or no access to capital. Land value taxation is one mechanism which would very swiftly and relatively painlessly provide a counterbalance to this vicious cycle of ever increasing disparity of wealth distribution. The Housing And Planning Act should be rescinded, restoring security of tenure to existing tenants.
The equalisation of VAT on refurbishment with the current zero rate for new housebuilding would remove a 20% incentive to demolish and redevelop. With a level playing field, an objective cost comparison could be made between proper maintenance and redevelopment, with all the social cost the latter involves. Kate Macintosh Winchester, Hampshire
• Before we start spending a projected £225bn on concreting over huge tracts of increasingly precious green space, how about doing more with the existing housing stock? Rent control, much longer tenancies with, obviously, an end to no-fault evictions, penal taxation of property left empty, and the compulsory purchase and improvement – or redevelopment – of substandard rental accommodation, and thus its conversion to social housing, would collectively be quicker and cheaper. Sure, all of that would soften prices, but the issue is homes, not investments, and spending power released by lower housing costs – both personal discretionary and for government in housing benefit savings – would flow into the wider economy. John Worrall Cromer, Norfolk
• This report is good news. But there is also an urgent need to overhaul the standard approach to the design and governance of low-cost housing so it accommodates home-based work. This is often restricted or even prohibited in social housing, which is generally currently designed to models developed in the early 20th century specifically to prevent this working practice. This is short-sighted and discriminatory – social tenants have as much right to work from home as anyone else. Frances Holliss Emeritus reader in architecture, London Metropolitan University
• The current social housing crisis is an artificially created problem begun by the political dogma in the 1980 Housing Act and developed into a crisis by the political ineptitude and inertia of governments of every colour over the four decades since.
For almost the whole of that period house prices have gone up faster than wages. It takes a bear of very little brain to realise that sooner or later both house purchase and rental become unaffordable, which is, of course, exactly what has happened.
The good news is that because it is an artificially created problem, we have the ability to solve it. However, the cost has been estimated to be as much as four HS2s, while the net cost might be less than one. This sounds like a rather good deal to me, since failure to get to grips with it is going to tear at the heart of our society over the next decades. Robin Howell Bridgwater, Somerset