Though there is no shortage of city centre offices to rent, the FT reports that, according to the latest Birmingham crane survey by Deloitte, investors are ‘ploughing money’ into office developments and Birmingham is building them at the fastest rate for 13 years.
The report, which covers the city centre and Edgbaston, says that 969,000 sq ft of office space was being built in 2015, with hotel construction three times higher than the 10-year average. Student apartments are being developed for the first time since 2013.
Recent figures on housing waiting lists for England are not readily available, though the Scottish government publishes comprehensive and up-to-date statistics.
The Mail recorded that in 2012 around 30,000 people were on the council’s housing list. That figure is not restricted to people actually living on the streets but includes families who have to share accommodation with friends or other family members. It also noted that 70% of city residents could not afford to buy the average-sized home on their income. (Photograph from https://www.jrf.org.uk/blog/overcrowding-story-behind-statistics)
In 2013 this site posted its view: ‘First priority: house those in greatest need’. A recent development seems to end the hopes of those needing homes. Another FT article anticipates that a change of terminology, inserted into the Housing and Planning Bill, will make it harder to scrutinise the government’s progress in delivering genuinely cheap housing for workers.
“Instead of building more affordable homes, they are branding more homes as affordable,” said John Healey, the shadow housing minister.
The definition of affordable starter homes, restricted to first-time buyers under 40 and sold at a discount of at least 20% of their market price, has been widened to include houses costing less than £450,000 in London or £250,000 elsewhere. Shelter, the homeless charity, estimates that starter homes will be unaffordable to people on low incomes in 98% of the country, and unaffordable to those on middle incomes in 58% of the country. To afford those prices at current average lending ratios Shelter estimates:
- In England, you’d need an income of £50,000 and a deposit of £40,000.
- In London, you’d need an income of £77,000 and a deposit of £98,000.
As medics point out, housing is one of the ‘social determinants of health’ – mental and physical.
The planning process ‘streamlined’?
Greg Clark, communities secretary, has tabled an amendment allowing companies to ask their planning applications to be processed by a “designated person” instead of a local planning authority.
Andrew Whitaker, planning director at the Home Builders Federation, said that the proposed changes would “create more options for developers” and make more sites viable.
In December, Christopher Hope expressed concern about plans to permit building on the green belt: “What is the Government doing about this? What is it doing to encourage building on all the derelict land around our major cities, including London?
Simon Heffer also highlighted the fact that more than 200,000 houses in England have been empty for more than six months.
From a study of government statistics for England by Empty Homes
In Part 2 there will be news of an initiative addressing this issue.