Housing the North

30th November, 2012 2:11 pm

Tags:

By Ann Pittard

The minister charged with planning, Nick Boles, this week joined the chorus of those looking for more English land to build upon with his claim that we should find 2-3% more land to build on. This chimes well with the Northern Economic Futures Commission’s call for a ‘Mapping the Futures’ programme to drive national spatial planning for the next 20 years.

But he need look no further. Rich in land, home to vast construction supply chain and boasting world-leading specialist expertise, the North presents the ideal location to restock the English housing market, to rebalance the economy, and to develop innovation in housing and neighbourhoods. It is time that these Northern assets were used to their full effect.

All too often, comment on the malaise of our national housing market centres on London and the South East. There is little doubt that the problems in the capital’s housing market are wide, and run deep, with rents extortionate and prices prohibitive. As valid as these comments are, often they ignore the persistent problems to the north of the M25.

In fact, housing in the north is in a state of crisis; a crisis stemming from two problems. The first we share with other parts of the UK – not enough good quality homes. The widening gap between supply and demand has left increasing numbers of Northern families dislocated from the housing market. Unlike comparable areas further South, many Northern towns and cities face continuing stagnation in new housing supply.  In London last year, net completions were only 8% short of the levels achieved at the height of the boom in 2006/07.  Southern unitary districts were not far behind.  In contrast, new housing delivery in Northern Mets lagged at less than half the 2006/07 level.  And in Greater Manchester, that powerhouse of the Northern economy, completions were 70% below 2006/07 levels (NHF 2012).

This growing shortfall in housing increases pressures on house prices, which despite recession have risen in the North more than in any other region outside of the capital.  Between 2001-2011, house prices rose by 106% across the North East, North West, and Yorkshire and Humber, but earnings rose by only 31%. (NHF, 2012). The lack of affordable homes and available mortgages increases pressure on the rented sector, which are set to rise in the North by 29% over the next six years (NHF, 2012), while earnings continue to stagnate.  The result of the combined pressures is that more people are forced onto the housing waiting lists (already disproportionately high in Northern England).

The second problem Northern England has is very large numbers on Housing Benefit. There are 1.35 million Housing Benefit claimants in the three Northern regions of England, costing the country around £100million pounds a week in rent subsidies, and the numbers continue to rise (DWP, 2012). In the current spending round, Housing Benefit expenditure is projected to be £94.5 billion up to 2015 for the UK, against only £4.5 billion in grants and capital expenditure to build new homes.(Cooke and Hull, 2012) This significant mismatch between capital and revenue expenditure is doing little to resolve chronic under-supply.

A revival of Northern, and national economic fortunes would play a significant part reducing undersupply, and reversing Housing Benefit expenditure; equally, a revival of house building would have significant positive effects on the state of the Northern economy and the size of the benefit bill. But Northern councils have legal responsibilities but little power to deliver meaningful change for the people of their area.

This is a why a fresh approach is needed. Building upon the work of the Together at Home review (Cooke and Hull, 2012), the Northern Economic Futures Commission has argued that the expenditure on Housing Benefit would be better invested in solving the housing supply problem.

We recommend a Sub-regional Housing Fund, radically devolving funding to groups of local authorities, channeling capital expenditure on house building with Housing Benefit expenditure into one local block grant. Based on current expenditure, Manchester would be allocated up to £681million over a three year period, and £663million in Leeds. This level of devolved financing would allow communities to plan and decide on their own housing arrangements, from the houses they build, to their own model for replacing Housing Benefit. For instance, the grant could be used to commission long-term deals with housing developers to build new affordable housing; to purchase existing properties not in residential use, or to release rented housing for those who need it most by facilitating mortgages for those who want to get a foot on the housing ladder. Such proposals are not without challenges but the case is too compelling to ignore, and we are confident that Northern cities will look seriously at the concept in the next iterations of City Deals.

Ann Pittard is Large Business Development Lead for Leeds City Region and a member of IPPR North’s Northern Economic Future Commission. The final report was launched in Leeds today

Latest

  • Comment As my elected MP Grant Shapps is supposed to fight my corner – instead he threatened to sue me

    As my elected MP Grant Shapps is supposed to fight my corner – instead he threatened to sue me

    Last year Rt Hon Grant Shapps MP, the Chairman of the Conservative Party, threatened to sue me, a constituent of his, for libelling him on Facebook about his alter-ego as an internet marketing millionaire called Michael Green. He initially demanded damages and, eventually, to post a retraction which read: “I recently made a post suggesting that Grant Shapps MP had lied over the use of a pen name. I now accept that such an assertion was entirely false and that Mr Shapps MP has […]

    Read more →
  • Comment The SNP’s argument that the way to get a Labour Government is to vote against Labour doesn’t stack up

    The SNP’s argument that the way to get a Labour Government is to vote against Labour doesn’t stack up

    We are only on day two of the formal General Election campaign, but already we have learned a lot about the choice facing the people of Scotland on 7 May. Let’s start with Labour’s positive offer. We have a plan to make Scotland the fairest nation on earth. We will make sure working class families in Scotland get a fair shot at life. So we will bring an end to the failed austerity agenda of George Osborne. Unlike other parties, we won’t rely […]

    Read more →
  • Featured Polling Wales Labour lead by 15 points in Wales

    Labour lead by 15 points in Wales

    Welsh Labour have a huge 15 point lead over the Conservatives, according to new polling. The latest YouGov research for ITV shows that Labour are up four points from their result in 2010, when they won 30 of the 40 Westminster seats in Wales. The Tories are down just one point, the Lib Dems are down 15, UKIP are up 12 and Plaid Cyrmu’s support has remained static. The standings suggest Labour could be on course to win around 75% […]

    Read more →
  • Comment The Coalition have risked turning access to justice into the preserve for the wealthy

    The Coalition have risked turning access to justice into the preserve for the wealthy

    This government’s extraordinary hike in court fees risks turning access to justice yet further into the sole preserve of the wealthy or those who have clear cut cases that lawyers know they can win. If we believe that a judicial system is reflective of society, the ‘principles’ of this government cannot be anything we should aspire to. And, while historically the UK legal system has often been a model followed by other countries, our status as international leaders in legal […]

    Read more →
  • News Wales Former Plaid Cymru leader says party “haven’t convinced” voters

    Former Plaid Cymru leader says party “haven’t convinced” voters

    On the day that Plaid Cymru launch their manifesto, their former leader Daffyd Elis-Thomas has said that he has “no issue” with Wales voting for Labour. Elis-Thomas, now a Plaid peer, said he did not think the Welsh people had been “convinced” by his party, and that they were yet to have a clear message. Speaking earlier today, he said that he felt it was Plaid’s “responsibility” to do better than it currently is. He told the BBC: “I have […]

    Read more →
Share with your friends










Submit