House building needs in north addressed by revised fairer formula

Newly built home being re-rendered

The government is devising a ‘fairer formula’ to its target of house building in England. The plans should result in more new homes being built in the Midlands and North of England, which are the areas that have been hardest hit by the pandemic.

The previous ‘ill conceived’ algorithm meant that most new homes would have been built in the South East of England and London.

One of the effects of the pandemic and resulting recent changes in the make up of city centres could be the building of more homes in urban areas that would result in a ‘reimagining’ of town and city centres, repurposing existing buildings from office and retail use to residential housing.

The government has a target of building 300,000 homes each year by the mid 2020s. Local councils had previously been set a target of how many homes needed to be built in their areas. Taking into account the limitations of restraints such as green belt land, the councils were then expected to propose potential sites for new house building.

Ministers now say that funding will be more fairly distributed outside London and the South East for the redevelopment of brownfield sites, including underused land and disused buildings.

Critics of the ‘mutant’ algorithm, including former prime minister, Theresa May, said that it would have resulted in a failure to ‘level up’ the north of England while the south of England would be ‘concreted over’ with new house building. Former Foreign Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, said the government seemed not to care about how local communities felt which risked local democracy becoming ‘undermined’.

Housing Secretary, Robert Jenrick, told MPs that the COVID crisis had resulted in “the most substantial change to city centres and town centres since the Second World War and that does give us pause for reflection.”

Mr Jenrick said the government had reacted to the pandemic which “created a generational opportunity for the repurposing of offices and retail as housing and for urban renewal.” He hoped the changes would “be an opportunity for a new trajectory for our major cities; one which helps to forge a new country beyond COVID.”

A £100 million fund will open in January for which councils in England can apply for money to regenerate council estates and support developments on public land. New funding of £67 million will be distributed for brownfield development between the West Midlands and Greater Manchester Mayoral Combined Authorities.

The government has also pledged up to £7 billion of funding in the future for funding requirement that are not in the London and South East.

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