Housing associations to confront housing challenges in the West Midlands

All housing sectors – council, private and housing association – will need to work together more effectively, as envisioned in the Housing White Paper, to ensure that housing investment underpins regeneration of the West Midlands.

Amanda Tomlinson is Chief Executive of Black Country Housing Group

Amanda Tomlinson is Chief Executive of Black Country Housing Group

27 March 2017

The creation of the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) provides further opportunities for housing associations to play a concerted and crucial role in tackling our region’s longstanding housing challenges.

The West Midlands Housing Association Partnership, formed last year, is engaging and supporting the new devolved authority to deliver thousands of new homes. It comprises 22 partner housing associations including Black Country Housing Group (BCHG). And it is providing a single voice to help the WMCA deliver its social and economic aims through housing investment, to boost employment and enhance the health of local people.

A new report by the Human City Institute (HCI) and Futures Network West Midlands (FNWM) aims to raise the profile of housing issues in our region and describes the key housing challenges faced by people in need in the West Midlands, housing associations and their local government partners.

We are seeing a rising rate of household formation. DCLG predicts an extra 250,000 households over the next two decades, which is the size of a large town or small city.

As in many other parts of the country, a backlog of housing need has also been building for many years, exacerbated by under-supply of housing. Increasing levels of homelessness, rough sleeping and use of temporary accommodation, together with ‘in situ’ problems such as overcrowding, sub-standard housing and fuel poverty, all require an approach that goes beyond the provision of new housing alone. 

There is a need for short, medium and long-term strategies that deploy a range of housing solutions. New house-building, use of both brown and green field sites, refurbishment of existing housing, bringing empty homes back into useful life, experimenting with off-site manufacture, temporary and mobile housing provision, public and private investment, and community-led and self-build housing, should all be in the strategic mix as part of a ‘whole stock’ strategy, as the report recommends.

As well as improving the quality of life of local communities, housing investment is increasingly (and rightly) seen as good value for money. It not only supports economic development – for example, by improving labour mobility – but also creates economic value in itself. It generates jobs, training and apprenticeships, and sustains local supply-chains. Housing associations are historically adept at deploying housing investment to achieve this added value.

Alongside the economic value, new or improved housing reduces the burden on the NHS by promoting good physical and mental health, as well as enabling greater opportunities for advancement and fulfilment of aspirations, and boosting life chances.

The WMCA, and the new Mayor of the West Midlands will play a pivotal strategic role in housing supply that dovetails well with established ambitions to improve the durability of the West Midlands economy and upgrade transport infrastructure.

Crucially, housing development needs to be coordinated with such infrastructure investment – particularly involving transport – and linked to employment growth areas to promote economic sustainability. Support for new construction skills and the supply-chain for building materials will need to be upgraded too.

All housing sectors – council, private and housing association – will need to work together more effectively, as envisioned in the Housing White Paper, to ensure that housing investment underpins regeneration of the West Midlands. 

 


Download the full report supported by the WMCA, the National Housing Federation, the Chartered Institute of Housing and housing associations BCHG, Housing & Care21, Pioneer Group and Stonewater, researched and written by the Human City Institute (HCI) and Futures Network West Midlands (FNWM).

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