Speeding up housebuilding was one of West Midlands Mayor Andy Street’s key election pledges and so now the pressure is on to deliver.
Joe Reeves is Executive Director of Growth & Corporate Affairs at Midland Heart
22 July 2018
In March 2018 the Chancellor announced the long awaited West Midlands housing deal with some impressive funding pledges. A £100m land remediation fund will combine with £250m from the housing infrastructure fund to form a total package of £350m. In return, the West Midlands must deliver 215,000 homes by 2031.
But the key question is how many of these homes are additional and how many would have been built anyway? The target represents a significant increase in output of around 50,000 homes, which means housing developers face a huge task to increase their capacity within a relatively short time period.
The good news is the new funds are targeted at some of the biggest obstacles to progress in the city region, including cleaning up brownfield land and improving transport links, but whilst the £350m package sounds huge, when split over our housing target it works out at less than £2,000 a home.
There are also challenges around land availability and recent research has shown that even if we can unlock a lot of brownfield, we will still face significant land shortages in the longer term.
So the Government clearly expects a very strong return for its investment and this is where the West Midlands Housing Association partnership (WMHAP) comes in.
Established in 2016, our aim is to help the combined authority and elected mayor to boost housing supply. Our members bring a wide range of housing expertise that includes building and managing homes of multiple tenures to meet local need.
We are exploring the potential for new bespoke housing sector partnerships that could enable us to combine our financial strength and capacity to develop over and above our existing business plans.
As housing associations, we stand ready to pool our resources to realise the region’s housing ambitions, but we can’t do it on our own. We need not just strong partnerships with each other, but also with the Government, the combined authority and local authorities, all of which have a key role in providing access to funds and bringing forward land.
Our operating environment has been through huge changes and is continuing to evolve. Homes England want to do away with ‘parent child relationships’ and form strategic partnerships with groups of housing associations. Government has met many of our demands from grant to the rent settlement and now expects us to deliver the extra homes at the scale we promised.
The housing deal therefore represents a unique and exciting opportunity and it’s up to us to form partnerships with purpose to make it a success.
At the National Housing Federation, we promise to help housing associations influence devolution to create the best possible environment for social housing and your customers. The devolution hub is at the heart of how we will deliver on this.