Archives for category: Housing

One of the charms of Stirchley is the active community bonding between many of its residents, regardless of age, income or education.

This may be seen by attending its neighbourhood forum, its market, its local history group, its renovated park, its library support group and many more activities housed in the re-opened Stirchley baths community centre (below) and the former Stirchley Institute.

Samuel Clark, development director at Seven Capital, looks forward to the ‘gentrification of this important Birmingham suburb’.

Gentrification (aka more expensive ‘aspirational’ housing) – the influx of more affluent people concentrated in a block on the nine-acre site on the corner of Hazelwell Lane and Pershore Road – would be a retrograde step.

Many who admire this active and creative neighbourhood, hope that developer Seven Capital, with bases in the city, London and Dubai, will really listen to ‘local stakeholders’ and, together with the council, design plans which include affordable, social and more profitable ‘gentrified’ housing for the new ‘mixed-use scheme’.

As one resident said on Stirchley online:

Mr Clark, please note. An appropriate scheme would counteract ‘Which’s designation of Seven Capital’s ‘worst case’ offer of housing as an investment opportunity.

No more empty ‘investment’ flats should be seen in the city; let house-building mean home-building.

 

 

m

Advertisements

In the Financial Times, Jim Pickard, its Chief Political Correspondent and one of Mr Corbyn’s consistent detractors, writes: “After largely ignoring Labour for two years, many business leaders are now scrambling to work out what a Jeremy Corbyn premiership could mean for their industries”.

Today, Mr Pickard opens by saying that, given increasing concerns about the housing market among young voters, ministers are drawing up plans to make housebuilding a priority in this month’s Budget. Just 32,630 affordable homes were built in 2015-16 — the lowest number in 24 years and down from 61,090 in 2010-11. But 16,000 were built as “affordable rent”, a new category under which landlords can charge up to 80% of market rents.

Under the “Section 106 agreement”, developers bargain with local councils over local amenities and affordable housing that they have to build in return for planning permission. But a loophole involving “viability assessments”, which was first introduced in the 2012 National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), allow developers to negotiate away their Section 106 affordable housing commitments on the basis that they would make the scheme less profitable. If expected profits are below 20%, defined as a “competitive return”, the number of homes built can be reduced.

“This provides a safety net for developers, who can overpay for land to guarantee they win sites, safe in the knowledge they will be able to argue down community benefits to make their money back later,” said Shelter.

Last week Alok Sharma, the housing minister, admitted that the viability assessment system was “not working” and suggested that he favoured changing the process. “Clearly the system as it is does not work. We are proposing a set of improvements we believe will make it work better,” Mr Sharma told a Commons committee. “Let’s see what views come forward as a result of the consultation.”

John Healey, shadow housing minister, said Labour would carry out a review of the future of social housing that would look at how to maximise the number of genuinely affordable homes to rent and buy on new developments. “Changing the rules to capture more of the value created by the granting of planning permission will not only help fund new affordable housing, but help increase local support for new housing, too.”

In every major speech, Corbyn addresses the housing issue. On a site which records many of these references, see the housing section in his 2016 conference address.

Today, Labour will set out plans to tighten this housebuilding loophole, responsible for halving the number of “affordable homes” built in Britain over the past five years.

 

 

v

Bournville Village Trust has agreed to acquire and manage some of the 138 homes at the Manor House site, which is being developed by Crest Nicholson. Work on the site will also include plans to rebuild Northfield Manor House, off Bristol Road South, which was demolished after being severely damaged in an arson attack three years ago.

Northfield Manor House was the residence of the Trust’s founder George, and his wife Elizabeth, until her death in 1951. In 1953 it became a hall of residence for the university, but has been empty since 2007 as the University decided it was too expensive to upgrade.

It is not legally listed with English Heritage, but has an informal grade A status on Birmingham City Council’s local advisory list of historic buildings. The English Heritage website (no general access) records that a farm house, part of the Manor of Northfield belonging to the Jervoise family, was recorded as being on the site circa 1750. In 1809 the estate was purchased by Daniel Ledsam, a London merchant. It is believed that he made alterations to the house and was responsible for the current main building.

This picture came from coverage on this site in 2014.

Local historian Dr Carl Chinn urged the university to stop the demolition of the fire-damaged building and consult local people through community groups and their elected representatives over the future of this building. He advocated restoration of the building, in partnership with the community.

The University’s vice-principal, Professor Adam Tickell, said that the planning application had been revived and now included provision for the rebuilding of the manor house, despite the demolition of most of the structure.

The Manor House is to be rebuilt in the original style with Georgian and Arts & Crafts facades and the decorative details of the exterior of the building in stone and brickwork, render and timber. The form and proportions of the 18th century manor will be retained but the interior will be divided into apartments.

 

 

 

 

v

Emmaus has the answer to rehabilitation, offering both accommodation and work of a socially useful nature. As its website says, “overcoming homelessness means more than a roof over your head”.   Without a purpose formerly homeless people placed in ‘permanent accommodation’ become lonely and still feel like ‘outsiders’,  eventually having to leave because of alcohol or debt problems.

Trinity Centre in nearby Camp Hill, was highlighted on this site in 2014, as numbers of ex-servicemen were living rough in the city. It housed many more homeless people than Tabor House – which of course we congratulate. There were three aisles, like the one below and the centre led up to the chantry altar in which a Sunday service was held each week.

All meals were cooked in a splendidly fitted kitchen, there was a recreation room, a visiting library (taken round by the writer) and a rehabilitation flat at the top of the church.

The mayor of WM Combined Authority may visit the Coventry Emmaus, probably the nearest, or go the centre in Cambridge, which is the ideal aimed for by Emmaus, where housing, workshops and a place where locals can come and buy restored goods at modest prices from restored people are all on the same site. A secular organisation, its strength is that it is ready to welcome back those who need another chance – no closed doors.

 

Trinity Centre is for sale: could it become the city’s first Emmaus?

 

 

 

b

Birmingham and West Midlands Group

HOUSING FOR ALL CLASSES OF SOCIETY IN THE VICTORIAN MIDLANDS

A day school at the Birmingham & Midlands Institute, Margaret St, Birmingham B3 3BU 

Saturday 18th November 10.15 am-4.15 pm, registration from 9.45                                 

Speakers will not only focus on architectural design but more importantly on who lived in the Victorian buildings and the motivation of those who built them.

The day will start with a presentation by Jo-Ann Curtis, History Curator for Birmingham Museums Trust, on the clearance of 19th century working class housing in Birmingham as part of Joseph Chamberlain’s Improvement Scheme through the photographs of James Burgoyne.

Michael Harrison, lecturer and writer on Bournville, will outline the philosophy of the Cadbury brothers in building the Bournville estate.  Living conditions there will be compared with those in the back-to-back dwellings.

Barbara Nomikos from the Moor Pool Heritage Trust will look at the later Moor Pool Estate and J.S. Nettlefold’s motivation in setting it up as a co-operative partnership tenant society.

Finally Janet Lillywhite will contrast the earlier housing with the middle class area of Anchorage Road, just to the north of the Sutton Coldfield town centre, which is an example of speculative development of ‘villa residences’ built between 1870 and 1914.

The cost of £35 will include tea/ coffee and a buffet lunch, also with tea/coffee. Queries/bookings to Helene Pursey on 0121 449 5186 or brumvictorian@gmail.com

Please return the booking form to her BEFORE Saturday 11th November at 54 Prospect Rd Moseley Birmingham B13 9TD.

 

 

 

v

 

The city has at last gained a council leader who really cares for the 99% (search housing blogs) – the only one since Theresa Stewart was elected.  

Measures taken (2016-17) include:

Clancy also works effectively to maintain and increase economic prosperity for the city’s business community:

Does ‘Sir Humphrey’ resent his success?

Howard Beckett (Unite) points out: “Let no one lose focus here that this is a cuts agenda being forced through by a paid officer, Stella Manzie, who takes home £180,000 a year and in her last year at Rotherham claimed over £160,000 in expenses”. He stated:

“The Council have agreement with the unions for changes in a working week, shift patterns, increased waste revenue. The Labour Cabinet needs now to honour the Acas deal and in doing so do the right thing by workers and the people of Birmingham . . . the council needs to admit it did ratify it and stand by it – and if it doesn’t, it needs to be honest and admit it’s going back on its decision. This is a fair deal and the equal pay issues are made up”.

Is the civil service attempting to undermine the elected leader of the council? Technically no officers, including the interim chief executive, have the authority to overturn a cabinet vote  seven for three against according to a ‘senior Labour source’ at a council meeting on 17 August called to discuss the deal

Clancy’s ‘crime’: addressing a major overspend on the bins department which relied heavily on costly agency staff and overtime payments to fulfil its basic service and a potential equal pay liability that the Labour leadership inherited from the former Tory-Lib Dem council which oversaw the 2011 bin strike.

There will be a full council meeting on Tuesday, September 11 when two councillors with a minimal track record of achievement will table their vote of no confidence in the leader.

It should be overwhelmingly defeated.

 

 

p

 

 

 

Birmingham City Council’s cabinet has approved a proposal to enable the development of new homes for self and custom build in the City; read more here.

‘Incentivising self-build in the city’, signed by Council leader John Clancy and Waheed Nazir Corporate Director (Economy), puts forward a series of proposals to enable the development of new homes for self and custom build in Birmingham, identifying and disposing of suitable council-owned sites and applying for grants and loan funding to support self and custom build. Self-build schemes currently deliver around 10,000 homes per year in the UK – see the government’s research briefing.

The Birmingham Newsroom release points out that the Government has taken steps to raise the profile of self-build, easing constraints in the planning systems, cutting taxes for self-build developments, providing a number of funds to assist individuals and communities to self-build and releasing public land for self-build projects. In 2016 councils became legally obliged to keep a register of potential self and custom builders and to facilitate access to suitable sites for interested parties. In 2014, a Guardian article refers to Eric Pickles as initiator and gives news of continental self-build.

The news release explains that ‘self-build’ is when the end user directly organises the design and construction of their home: “The most traditional is where the self-builder selects the design and undertakes much of the actual construction work themselves. However, self-build also includes projects where the self-builder arranges for an architect/ contractor to build their home for them; and those which are delivered by kit home companies. Some community-led projects are also defined as self-builds as the members may organise and undertake a proportion of the construction work themselves”.   There is a Self and Custom Build webpage on the Council’s website with five documents, one of which gives information about applications for self-build by individuals or associations.

As most online images were of individually designed houses in rural settings this Lancaster co-housing scene (small houses, with communal facilities and storage areas) was chosen – not ‘pure’ self-build, but the group designed it and did ‘site preparation on the periphery’.

As Brandon Lewis, when Housing and Planning Minister (2014-16) said, many other countries have a track record of delivering large numbers of local homes through self-build and there is now a determination to ensure significant growth in self housebuilding.

Long-forgotten references were revisited:

The Walter Segall Self-Build Trust has a website, not updated of late. In the late 1970s the ‘Segal method’ was adopted by Lewisham Council for a self-building housing project across four sites and in March 2016 the Architectural Association’s School of Architecture held an exhibition concentrating on two of the streets, Walter’s Way and Segal Close, built under Segal’s personal guidance.

A search updated news gf Mary Kelly, architect, self-builder and teacher who for ten years co-ordinating the activities of the Walter Segal Self Build Trust. She is now living and teaching in Northumberland, building her own house.

Habitat for Humanity, backing self- build in Peckham, has an online directory with a section for the Midlands.

The Self-build Book – Broome & Richardson – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Self-build-Book-Enjoy-Designing-Building/dp/1870098234

Selfbuild 123 – timber frame houses www.selfbuild123.co.uk

Green Building Store https://www.greenbuildingstore.co.uk/

Self build houses: http://www.selfbuildit.co.uk/

 

 

 

d

Proposals for Brummie Bonds were first put forward by former Greenpeace economist Colin Hines at the end of 2004 (Birmingham Post – Comment: 5.2.04), at the end of 2004 by then Conservative council leader Mike Whitby mentioned here, advocated in the Stirrer (2008) and frequently by John Clancy (right), before he became Labour council leader (most eloquently in 2011).

Clancy acts, 2017

Professor David Bailey (Aston Business School, Birmingham) welcomed the news that the City has found a new way to finance house-building – John Clancy’s first issue of Brummie Bonds (more detail here):

“The City Council is already building more new council houses than any other local authority in the country – with the Birmingham Municipal Housing Trust building 30% of all new homes in the city last year. But that’s still not enough and using Brummie Bonds to raise £45m to help finance more house building is welcome news. Clancy has talked of Brummie Bonds opening up new funding streams to deliver a “step change” in building homes”.

The Council has stated that the interest rate it will pay on the Brummie Bonds is actually lower than that charged by the Public Works Loan Board (or PWLB – a government body that provides loans to local authorities mainly for capital projects).

Pensions and life assurance specialists Phoenix Life, which employs around 600 people in Wythall, has agreed to invest in a ‘Brummie Bond’ and there is the prospect of other investors coming in. The West Midlands Local Government Pension Fund and other union and business pension funds could take up future issues.

Hines goes further, seeing municipal bonds as a safe haven for ‘People’s Pensions’ – just as when, following the Housing Act of 1919, the London County Council and other local borough councils began to sell housing bonds to the public to raise money for public housing. schemes. He also advocates that, in due course, such bonds would also fund the retrofitting of houses and clean modes of transport.

As Professor Bailey ends: “Hats off to Birmingham City Council for pulling this off. A “confident act of local economic self-determination”? Yes”.

 

 

 

bb

An emboldened Conservative government would indeed be good news for ‘Strong and Stable’ funeral directors, as:

  • air pollution continues unabated,
  • the health service deteriorates,
  • the incidence of adult depression and mental illness in children grows apace
  • ‘moral fibre’ rots: latest indication:10,000 Britons signed up to one of the world’s largest paedophile internet networks
  • and others are debt-ridden due to the daily onslaught of consumerist advertising,
  • sedated by inane, often BBC-provided TV quiz shows
  • or led astray by a violent TV/online diet.

Tom Young says May’s ‘Strong and Stable Government’: (is) More Than a Tagline – indeed it is and a Conservative stabilisation unit would, in future, see an increasingly  heavy workload.

New claimants with a disability have just been hit by a £30 a week cut in benefits to save the government £1bn over four years even though their living costs are higher because of the need for assisted travel, hospital appointments, extra heating, etc., and they are likely to take far longer to find a job.

A Hall Green friend who intends to vote Labour writes of his issue with the Labour message: “it remains too rooted in struggle and injustice, and not enough in giving people a reason to vote if they don’t suffer or struggle”.

But many well-placed voters are deeply concerned when seeing others in difficulties. And a far larger swathe of the population is struggling than he seems to think:

  • graduates in formerly secure jobs are being made redundant,
  • people in their twenties and twenties now see no option but to live with their parents,
  • many people are suffering from urban air pollution and miserable traffic congestion,
  • education cuts will affect their children as the Public Accounts Committee has warned,
  • in some areas people in need of healthcare are affected by a declining NHS service.
  • mental illness, no doubt in part due to one of more of these factors, is rising rapidly in both children and adults.

Professor Prem Sikka sees the positive, constructive Labour message; U.K. Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn plans:

  • to raise corporation tax by more than a third over the next three years and plough the £6bn proceeds into schools and universities,
  • restore maintenance grants for the poorest students,
  • abolish university tuition fees
  • guarantee that five, six and seven-year olds will not be taught in classes of more than 30.
  • creating a National Education Service to equip Britain’s workers for the post-Brexit economy,
  • extend free adult education to allow workers to upgrade their skills,
  • raise the cap on NHS wages, and
  • to build up to a million new homes, many of them council houses.

If ‘the sums don’t add up’, a standard Conservative knee-jerk reaction:

Withdraw subsidies from fossil fuel & nuclear companies and arms exporters, jettison HS2 and redirect investment to improving rail and waterway transport links.

Sikka rightly ends: People are our biggest asset and only they can build a nation. We have a choice: Tax cuts for the rich or investment in our future to enable people to realise their potential.

 

 

 

 

 

So says George Monbiot in the Guardian. He trounces Blairite MPs who, disloyal to their elected leader and helping to grant Theresa May a mandate, ‘tolerated anything the Labour party did under Blair’:

They “proclaim disenchantment now that it calls for the protection of the poor, the containment of the rich and the peaceful resolution of conflict.

The popularity of Corbyn’s recent policy announcements leads Monbiot to believe he has a chance, albeit slight, of turning this around. His pledge to raise the minimum wage to £10 an hour is supported by 71% of people, according to a ComRes poll; raising the top rate of tax is endorsed by 62%.

He cites Labour’s 10 pledges, placed some time ago on another website, which could – incorporated in its manifesto – appeal to almost everyone. They promote the theme of security:

secure employment rights,

secure access to housing,

secure public services,

a secure living world.

Compare this with the attitude of the major funder of the Brexit campaign, billionaire Peter Hargreaves: ‘Insecurity is fantastic’.

Those who question Corbyn’s lack of experience and competence should remember where more ‘credible’ politicians led us:

  • Blair’s powers of persuasion led to the Iraq war.
  • Gordon Brown’s reputation for prudence blinded people to the financial disaster he was helping to engineer, through the confidence he vested in the banks.
  • Cameron’s smooth assurance caused the greatest national crisis since the second world war.
  • May’s calculating tenacity is likely to exacerbate it.

A progressive alliance/tactical voting?

Much advice follows; the most congenial is that Labour should embrace the offer of a tactical alliance with other parties:

“The Greens have already stood aside in Ealing Central and Acton, to help the Labour MP there defend her seat. Labour should reciprocate by withdrawing from Caroline Lucas’s constituency of Brighton Pavilion. Such deals could be made all over the country: and as the thinktank Compass shows, they enhance the chances of knocking the Tories out of government . . .”

Monbiot ends:

“The choice before us is as follows: a party that, through strong leadership and iron discipline, allows three million children to go hungry while hedge fund bosses stash their money in the Caribbean, and a party that hopes, however untidily, to make this a kinder, more equal, more inclusive nation I will vote Labour on 8 June . . . I urge you to do the same”.