How the West Midlands is leading the way in affordable housing
As real incomes are stagnating and with house prices increasing in almost all parts of the country, building enough affordable homes has become a huge challenge for authorities throughout the UK. However, it seems that the West Midlands have found the solution to this problem. Based on figures from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government which were released in November, the West Midlands is successfully completing the construction of affordable homes at nearly three times the national average, constructing a total of 1,837 such homes during 2017/18. This was an increase of nearly 33% from the previous figure of 1,383 in 2016/17 and is considerably higher than the UK national average of 12%.
The Portfolio Holder for Housing for the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA), Cllr Mike Bird stated the reason behind the significant increase in affordable housing completion was that the WMCA was proactively “intervening in places and unlocking sites where development has stalled or cannot get started”, as well as maintaining an effective working relationship with the private and public sector. Mayor of the West Midlands Andy Street credited the region’s economic success and job creation for the WMCA’s success in boosting affordable housing completions, as well as the £350 million in funding that has been awarded by central government that will be used in part to unlock brownfield land for development.
Without doubt the WMCA is under immense pressure to accelerate the rate at which it is building new homes, especially if it is to achieve its goal of building 215,000 new homes in the region before 2031. However, the Authority is not put off by this lofty target and is considering a number of innovative solutions in order to deliver more homes faster. The WMCA’s Portfolio Holder for Housing, Cllr Bird, has stated that he is aiming for the West Midlands to become a “global leader” in construction of modular homes, which are cheaper and simpler to build than traditional housing.
An example of innovation in the region recently came from Nuneaton and Bedworth Borough Council, which has been heralded as “trailblazing” for its approach in delivering modular housing. Recently, the authority was able to build four new homes in just 10 weeks using prefabrication, helping to cut the waiting time for houses in the area. In addition, the WMCA has also been pushing ahead with a raft of measures to try and close the housing supply and demand gap, with its £5million Regional Construction Training Fund aimed at recruiting local people to the construction industry, while a National Brownfield Institute will be dedicated to delivering “more efficient ways of getting former industrial land ready for development.”
Whilst it still remains a challenge to deliver sufficient levels of housing, the West Midlands is leading the way in promoting innovative approaches to construction, as well as proactively taking steps to employ local people. If the region can continue to encourage such innovation across areas such as construction, employment and delivery, the West Midlands will be able to firmly cement its place ahead of the curve when it comes to meeting housing needs and affordable homebuilding in the UK.
Matthew Roberts, Account Executive MPC