Lords and MPs attend APPG for Housing the North meeting

MPs and Lords came together last Wednesday to hear how a range of NHC members were benefitting their communities through transformative regeneration projects. Joining Chair Ian Mearns MP and Vice Chair Kevin Hollinrake MP for the APPG for Housing in the North, a strong group of 20 people attended including Shadow Housing Minister Tony Lloyd MP and Lord Shipley, the Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Communities, Decentralisation, and the Northern Powerhouse. Although the day was dominated by an Opposition Day Debate on Universal Credit, Ian Mearns MP declared it noteworthy that the group had still attracted the attention of parliamentarians around the region with the North East, North West, and Yorkshire and Humber all represented.

As explained by Pete Bailey, NHC Associate, the purpose of the APPG was to get the debate on regeneration out into the open. Although having garnered a negative reputation as a by-word for gentrification, regeneration had an important part to play in addressing not just the housing crisis in the North but as a way of improving the economic opportunities of whole areas.

Tom Warburton, Director of Place at Newcastle City Council, described how a combination of new builds and early intervention in preventing homes becoming empty had seen “the beginnings of thriving communities” around the city. This work would soon be complemented with the introduction of local infrastructure such as shops and a GP practice to allow places to grow further.

Paul Beardmore, representing Manchester City Council as Director of Housing, continued on this theme. With a strong emphasis on engagement and matching regeneration with similar ambitions to grow employment, some of Manchester’s more deprived estates were being turned around. This revival could be seen in an increase of residents in work and school places being taken up locally. A point of pride was the high level of existing residents that were moved into new properties once completed and thus remained part of the community.

The meeting’s overarching theme of intrinsically linked physical and community development was summed up by RBH’s “Quality of Life, Quality of Place” approach. Clare Tostevin, Director of Communities, underlined the importance of an area having suitable homes and comparable job opportunities as part of an aspirational offer to current and prospective residents. Members around the room agreed and were aware of the issue of residents moving out of an area due to wage growth not being matched by the uplift of the overall town.

In discussing the next steps for the group, a consensus emerged that more could be done to evaluate the long term impact of upfront government investment. It was clear that this funding played a key role in the success of ambitious regeneration schemes and a body of evidence was needed to bolster the argument that investment in the short term was justified by long term returns.

Full meeting notes will be available soon from the NHC’s dedicated page for the All Party Parliamentary Group for Housing in the North.