2018 needs to be the year we make a concerted effort to drive housing supply across the UK and in particular across the North West, as a sector we need to do more for our communities.
There are many challenges, not least access to land. Industry needs better incentives to build beyond Greenfield sites and must become more imaginative about potential build sites. Looking differently at the potential of underutilised land, brownfield sites, sites around transport hubs and stations will be key.
We desperately need to bring many of our brownfield sites back into productive use. The latest figures I’ve seen suggest there are 66,000 hectares of brownfield land available – half of which is obsolete. Surely developing these sites has to be a priority for the sector supported by central government through initiatives focused on enabling supply. If an amount similar to the £10bn announced for Help to Buy were to be invested into addressing the challenges of brownfield sites that would really drive supply in sustainable areas.
An effort at this scale would release land for hundreds of thousands of new homes. Most local authorities are working on their brownfield site register due to be complete in December 17. Completing the register is a government requirement but to make a difference there has to be more than just a register. I’m confident that where we have proactive, pro-growth local authorities they will work with partners to create portfolios of sites; possibly with government funding such as the housing infrastructure fund, to bring these sites to market.
Many of these locations are small infill sites and with support, are ideal opportunities for local and regional housebuilders and housing associations to develop which is great for the local economy as well as for housing delivery – a win win.
New entrants to the housebuilding market must be encouraged, especially SME businesses who have yet to return to the industry since the downturn in 2008. These SME’s will need the appropriate support from larger influencers in terms of accessing and capitalising on modern methods such as modular home construction, SME’s can and will play a complementary role to the larger players.
Finally, there are further opportunities for collaboration at scale. Developers need to collaborate and challenge the public sector to release underused, public sector land for development - offering a fair return, quality and value to the public sector. There are significant public sector opportunities that need private sector collaboration, including new transport hubs being created in the North West and across the country. With the progression of HS2, these hubs are ideal spaces for new high density, accessible, affordable modern housing.
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