Long after the high quality housing programme initiated by Mayor Ken Livingstone – monuments to socialism at its best (see specifications in Chapter 2 here) – we read that homelessness is soaring in the capital as “immaculate houses in central London lie empty, used as assets in buy-to-leave schemes and three quarters of luxury new builds were snapped up by foreign investors last year”.

Birmingham’s Labour-led City Council won ‘Social Housing Provider of the Year’ at the Insider Residential Property Awards 2016 for the work done by the Birmingham Municipal Housing Trust (BMHT) programme, citing recent projects in Nechells, Sutton Coldfield and Ladywood. The city was also a finalist in the 2016 APSE (Association for Public Service Excellence) housing sector award. Last year BMHT won the Public Sector Award at the Urban Design Awards for its Newtown redevelopment.

bmht-2-small-heath

Small Heath, 2015

Birmingham Municipal Housing Trust (BMHT), set up in January 2009 to lead the development of the Council’s new build housing programme, is currently the largest provider of affordable homes per annum in the Midlands.

BMHT completed its 2,000 home in March – 1,125 homes for rent and almost 900 for sale. More than 200 homes for rent are currently under construction on 17 sites and the council is to build around 1,800 further new homes for rent and market sale between now and 2020.

It was good to hear commonsense from the Shadow Secretary of State for Housing and Planning John Healey on Radio 4 recently

john_healey_cihHe deplored the spending of £2.3bn a year on housing benefit going to private landlords renting out sub-standard homes: “The last Labour government brought in the decent homes standard for council and housing association homes, the next Labour government will make it a national mission to end unsafe and sub-standard private rented housing.” When he visited new council-built homes in Birmingham, Councillor John Clancy told him: “Building housing here and now is our first priority. The Birmingham Municipal Housing Trust is building houses in the hundreds and I’m absolutely determined that the city as a whole must now move towards building thousands”. In a recent Birmingham Newsroom post, John Clancy said:

“We now need the Housing Minister to emphasise that local government’s role should include the provision of new social housing as well as providing homes for private rental, and that the Government is serious about affordable home ownership”.

Endnotes:

In June the Mail reported that the city council has set up a £4.6 million fund to buy empty homes and make them fit for use.

According to a council report, more than 5,000 private homes in Birmingham have been empty for more than six months and of those 1,900 have been empty for three years. In many cases they have overgrown gardens, with litter, graffiti and broken windows blighting their neighbourhoods.

Further afield came news of an Irish initiative:

About 12% of Co Louth’s residential stock is vacant and during 2016 the council placed CPOs on 26 houses in Dundalk and purchased the units for between €30,000 and €40,000 each, spending a further €60,000 on each unit to bring them back into use.

In January an FT editorial recommended a bigger contribution from the public sector. To this end local authorities should be enabled to:

  • set planning fees,
  • levy taxes on idle land
  • borrow in order to fund social housing developments,
  • make better use of brownfield sites
  • and release public land for development.

It ended: “Shame then that Osborne reduced massively Housing Associations capability to invest in new housing with a 1% rent reduction pa for 5 years”.

 

 

 

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