Monday’s Budget brought the expectation of a nationwide boost to house-building. With an announcement of an extra £500m funding to pay for the support structure that allows the building of new homes, it was a welcome announcement to deliver a boost to supply.
Just a few days later it is alarming news that Northern authorities will only be able to access a maximum of 20% of this new funding. 80% of all funding across all Government schemes for house building will be going to areas of “high affordability.” This will exclude funding support for most of the North East, North West and Yorkshire and Humber.
Jo Boaden, Chief Executive of the NHC said “It seems that funding to meet house-building ambitions is a ‘geographic’ issue, not a nationwide issue, with the vast proportion of the funding going to the South”.
Homes England’s 5 year strategic plan launched today announces that it will “play a major role in making the housing market work for everyone.” The geographical targeting of funding to the South across 5 housing programmes draws stark attention to the North / South divide.
There are areas of the North facing severe constraints with additional targeted investment needed to support major development programmes. The national focus on a certain definition of affordability prevents different housing markets from tackling unique challenges.
National policies must be flexible to target specific local issues – market access in unaffordable markets and housing quality and renewal in more affordable ones – this will ensure that funding is directed where it is most needed, improving value for money and making more of a dent in the housing crisis.
The housing deficit isn’t just in new supply; it is also to be seen in the quality and age of the existing housing stock, with large quantities of pre-war terraced housing. Investment to bring brownfield land to market is perhaps the single most important immediate measure that could be taken to accelerate the public sector delivery of new homes in the North.
Jo Boaden said “It is in areas where private sector investment has been weakest where there has been far less public infrastructure investment. Regional inequality in public infrastructure investment could mean that it becomes more challenging to attract other investment in housing.
“Government must ensure the investment plan can meet the scale of investment needs in all parts of the country, not just in areas of highest affordability pressure.”