02Where in cities are new homes being built?

Broadly, the locations where cities could choose to allocate land and build new homes could be grouped into three distinct areas:

  1. New high and mid-rise development in city centres;
  2. Urban extensions and housing estates on greenfield sites on the outskirts of cities; and
  3. Existing, built-up suburbs around city

This section will investigate how new housing supply is delivered in each of these areas, to explain the disconnect across cities between the supply of new housing and demand. To do this, it looks at case studies to illustrate how the groups of cities with distinct amounts of supply and demand of housing in Figure 1 provide new homes. Brighton is shown as an example of a city with high housing demand but low supply, and Wakefield as a city with lower demand and high supply. Exeter is then then introduced as a city which manages to supply a large number of new homes in response to high demand, followed by Manchester and London, which face distinct issues as large conurbations.

Each of these cities will face some unique conditions when supplying new homes. Elected leaders and planners in each city are best placed to understand those special features and barriers at the local level, and these cities are presented here as case studies here to show broad types.

Box 1: Defining suburbs

The analysis in this report split cities in two areas: city centre and suburbs — because of the different roles that previous work by Centre for Cities suggests that they play. 2

  • City centres are defined based on all the postcodes that fall within a circle from the pre-defined city centre point. The radius of the circle depends on the size of the residential population of a city and its size is as follows:
    • London – radius of 2 miles;
    • Large cities – radius of 0.8 miles;
    • Medium and small cities – radius of 0.5
  • Suburbs are defined based on the postcodes that fall within the rest of a city (defined as primary urban areas (PUAs), the standard definition of cities that Centre for Cities uses).

As a result, this report is not referring to suburban living – terraced housing, semi-detached and detached neighbourhoods, and Canary Wharf are all part of this report’s definition of “suburbs”. It simply refers to the parts of the city which are not in the city centre.

While due to data limitations this research was not able to classify these important distinctions within the suburbs, it is still notionally possible to observe and distinguish at least two different types of suburbs, and this is explicitly done throughout the text.

  • Existing suburbs, also referred to as interior suburbs and built-up suburbs: these indicate those parts of the suburbs which already play a central role in terms of residential provision. They tend to be closer to the city centre and most of their land is already developed and used for residential.
  • Outskirts, also referred to as peripheral suburbs: these are parts of the suburbs within cities that are further away from the city centre and are yet to be developed to their full potential as areas dedicated to residential provision. These tend to be the areas where it is more likely to find large areas that can easily be developed into new urban extensions, and where local plans allocate sites for greenfield development.

This report uses Lower Super Output Areas (LSOAs), which are defined by the number of households in the Census for “neighbourhoods”. In 2011, these LSOAs contained on average 700 homes each. As a guide for interpreting the maps, physically smaller neighbourhoods typically represent existing suburban neighbourhoods with many houses already built-up. Larger neighbourhoods on the maps are either city centres with a greater concentration of jobs than residents, or neighbourhoods on the outskirts with large amounts of undeveloped land.


  • 2 Swinney, P. and Sivaev, D. (2013) ‘Beyond the high street: Why our city centres really matter’, London: Centre for Cities