Cities Outlook 2013, published today (21 January 2013) and sponsored by the Local Government Association, tips the 10 cities where funds aimed at kick-starting housing delivery could be best used to unlock economic growth immediately, through a much needed boost to housing supply.
Decades of failed housing policy means that the UK is currently building around 100,000 homes fewer than required to keep pace with demand each year. Current Government forecasts suggest that we need to build 232,000 new homes per year in England alone to keep up with projected household growth. Yet house building in the UK as a whole has only exceeded this once in the last 30 years. This is because housing policy during this time has not taken into account the housing needs of each local area.
Cities Outlook shows that this must change if we are to unlock the growth potential of the UK. The report concludes that areas must be given the flexibility to use their funding for locally driven solutions to housing shortages which differ from place to place, rather than nationally prescribed policies. While some areas are ripe for investment to kickstart housebuilding, others would benefit more from money being spent improving existing homes.
The report highlights that the best opportunity to meet housing numbers and deliver the injection of economic growth that the UK needs in the short term is to kick-start housing schemes that have secured planning permission, but stalled during development phase. Policies to achieve this could be focused on areas where economic growth is strong, demand for housing is high, and affordability is constrained.
This approach offers a real chance for national growth. The research indicates that by delivering these additional 100,000 homes in the year ahead, the employment of up to 150,000 people, including up to 90,000 low skilled positions, could be supported, as well as providing a 1% boost to the national economy. This is urgently needed at a time when the UK is still struggling to return to growth.
The report calls on Government to work with cities to ensure they access the Get Britain Building fund to kick start the stalled housing development, and highlights the following cities where funding would produce rapid results:
The research also highlights that not every area of every city needs or can deliver new homes. For some cities the condition of their local housing stock is a much more pressing challenge. In these places, residents would benefit more from a different approach. Rather than encouraging the building of new homes, regardless of local housing requirements, cities should be supported by policies and funding that incentivises the right measures to address local housing issues including retrofitting and reconfiguration of existing homes.
Demonstrating this point, we have identified ten cities which, due to lower levels of demand and higher vacancy rates, could benefit more from an alternative approach. These cities will likely require a mix of new homes and the opportunity to refurbish and reconfigure their existing housing stock. Given the market conditions they face, in the short term, these cities would benefit from access to funds that are available to help transform existing homes for the benefit of local residents.
Alexandra Jones, Chief Executive of Centre for Cities said:
“This year’s Cities Outlook shows that the housing crisis is one of the most pressing challenges facing the UK’s economy and it can only be addressed if we put place back into national housing policy. Cities must have the freedoms and flexibilities to make decisions about housing policy based on local circumstances. For some cities, lack of housing prevents people accessing jobs or means they are stuck in cramped accommodation. In other cities, incentives to retrofit empty houses could improve local quality of life. Both approaches, adapted to local needs, would generate the jobs and growth the UK needs.
“Cities Outlook 2013 shows that future economic growth will depend on making the most of the untapped potential in UK cities. Policy that can adapt to local needs and greater devolution of powers and funding to cities could be the recipe that the UK economy needs to get back to sustained economic growth.”
Cllr Mike Jones, Chairman of the Local Government Association’s Environment and Housing Board, said:
“Tackling the housing shortage is one of the key challenges facing the country today. As this independent research recognises, housing issues vary from area to area which make it crucial that those areas have flexibility to tailor solutions to local circumstances.
“In any given area there’s an intrinsic link between the availability of housing and issues like levels of employment, availability of skills training and the state of infrastructure like roads and railways which attract business and generate jobs. It makes no sense to deal with each of these issues in isolation. Local authorities in every part of the country need the flexibility to address local issues in a joined up way.
“Councils are working with developers to provide more new homes for people but if government released local authorities from some of the restrictions it imposes on them, they could do so much more. If government scrapped the unnecessary cap it has placed on the amount councils can borrow to invest in housing, local authorities could build 60,000 homes and invest more in bringing existing properties up to scratch.”
For more information or to request an interview please contact Rachel Tooby, External Affairs Manager at Centre for Cities on 0207 803 4316 / 07748 183 026 / firstname.lastname@example.org
Notes to editors
Cities Outlook 2013 is available upon request or at centreforcities.org/outlook13 from Monday 21 January. The Centre for Cities is very grateful for the support of the Local Government Association (LGA) for this independent report. Except where otherwise indicated, all views expressed are those of the Centre for Cities and do not necessarily reflect those of the LGA.
Further data city-by-city on individual rankings for the 64 cities is available at www.citiesoutlook.org
The Centre for Cities uses the Department for Communities and Local Government Primary Urban Area (PUA) definition of a city for the English urban areas included in Cities Outlook 2013. Primary Urban Areas are an aggregate of local authorities that make up the ‘built-up’ area of a city, defined as having a population of 125,000 or more.
PUA data only exists for English cities. For Welsh and Scottish cities, we have used the corresponding local authority area, with the exception of tightly-bounded Glasgow, where we have defined the city as an aggregate of five local authorities: West Dunbartonshire, East Dunbartonshire, East Renfrewshire, Renfrewshire and Glasgow City. Belfast has been defined as the aggregate of Belfast City, Carrickfergus, Castlereagh, Lisburn, Newtownabbey and North Down. The full breakdown is available at www.centreforcites.org/puas
The Centre for Cities is an independent, non-partisan research and policy institute. Committed to helping Britain’s cities improve their economic performance, the Centre produces practical research and policy advice for city leaders, Whitehall and employers.
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