A passion of mine is the delivery of housing, particularly of the quality that will improve our ability to attract key people and much-needed investment in our region.
Nationally, there is a huge housing shortage; the North East alone needs more than 50,000 new homes by 2020 according to the National Housing Federation. The planning allocation for housing falls well short of the numbers required. The only way this can be met is by the release of Green Belt land.
With the benefit of hindsight, the allocation of Green Belt land has been drawn too tightly. It was assumed that brownfield land would be used first, but austerity and the restriction of finance have changed the pattern of demand.
Today, the demand is for family homes in greenfield locations for which lenders will grant mortgages. Brownfield land is seen as too risky, taking too long to prepare and providing houses for which there is a little demand.
I support the release of Green Belt land, but with reservations. We are presently seeing major house builders’ profits and share prices boosted as the Government supports first-time buyers!
There are two papers that should be read by those taking such decisions. The first is the ‘RICS Housing Commission Report’ (available from www.rics.org) and the second, an excellent report, Creating Garden Cities and Suburbs Today (available from www.tcpa.org.uk) .
The latter identifies five action points to address barriers to the development of world-class communities. They are:
Vision, leadership and governance with a sustained commitment from government to garden city principles, linked with local authority leadership;
Unlocking land in the right place at the right price with land owners, developers and local authorities entering into a development agreement or garden city joint venture to build partnerships;
Investing in infrastructure by balancing risk and reward. Long-term patient investment is needed to meet upfront infrastructure costs. De-risking development for investors is the only way to unlock the potential of high-quality new communities;
Planning ahead with long-term vision, creating an effective strategic approach with sustainability;
Skills, co-ordination and delivery are essential from a dedicated team who can support delivery over the long-term.
This presents a unique opportunity for the North East region.
We can build new homes but the challenge is to stop chasing short-term gains and aim instead to create a legacy by building outstanding, inclusive and resilient places that merit the accolade of Garden Cities or Suburbs.
:: Kevan Carrick is a partner at JK Property Consultants LLP, the policy spokesman for RICS North East, and member of both G9 and the NE LEP Investment Fund Panel