Prop­erty ex­perts are serv­ing up so­lu­tions to our hous­ing is­sues

A win­ners’ din­ner and dis­cus­sion brought fresh ideas and some rad­i­cal sug­ges­tions on how to solve York­shire’s hous­ing is­sues. Sharon Dale re­ports.

Yorkshire Post - Property - - PROPERTY NEWS -

SOLV­ING THE hous­ing cri­sis in three hours was a tall or­der for a group of prop­erty in­dus­try pro­fes­sion­als but a “win­ners’ din­ner” and dis­cus­sion pro­vided plenty of food for thought. The event, or­gan­ised by Paula Dil­lon of law firm Bond Dickinson, brought win­ners, spon­sors and judges from the 2016 Va­ri­ety York­shire Res­i­den­tial Prop­erty Awards to­gether for a round ta­ble talk. It en­com­passed ev­ery­thing from af­ford­able homes and in­fra­struc­ture to en­sur­ing that the re­gion has the hous­ing it needs to sup­port eco­nomic growth. Here are some of the sug­ges­tions and ob­ser­va­tions.

Mak­ing hous­ing more af­ford­able for young peo­ple was the hottest topic of de­bate. One of the more con­tro­ver­sial sug­ges­tions was to make Leeds city cen­tre apart­ments smaller and there­fore less ex­pen­sive. The ar­gu­ment is that build­ing smaller is the only way of pro­vid­ing more af­ford­able homes to buy and rent in the place young peo­ple want to live and work. Good de­sign, said one ex­pert, can make up for the lack of square footage. There was also a call for the “silent ma­jor­ity” i.e. young peo­ple, to make their voices heard and cam­paign via so­cial me­dia for af­ford­able starter homes.

We must look at the

York­shire map and iden­tify land sur­round­ing ar­te­rial routes and ex­ist­ing rail­way sta­tions that could be­come new set­tle­ments with in­fra­struc­ture funded by gov­ern­ment.

Build to Rent. The hous­ing white paper’s em­pha­sis on buildto-rent as a way of boost­ing hous­ing de­liv­ery was ques­tioned by some. Af­ford­abil­ity was iden­ti­fied as one of the is­sues as many of the amenity-rich schemes have above av­er­age rents. Rent­ing is the norm in many Euro­pean coun­tries, in­clud­ing Ger­many where 60 per cent of the pop­u­la­tion are ten­ants. While there was a feel­ing that Bri­tain may fol­low suit, it was sug­gested that young peo­ple are be­ing forced into long-term rent­ing and would still pre­fer to have a home of their own.

Af­ford­able homes. In many lo­cal author­ity ar­eas,

CITY TALK: plan­ning pol­icy of­ten dic­tates that devel­op­ers must build a num­ber of af­ford­able homes, usu­ally for rent through hous­ing as­so­ci­a­tions, along­side those for sale on the open mar­ket. How­ever, one de­vel­oper noted that in de­sir­able ar­eas with high land val­ues, this usu­ally means that only one or two af­ford­able homes are cre­ated. His sug­ges­tion is that all coun­cils adopt a strat­egy reg­u­larly em­ployed in Lon­don and New­cas­tle, where the cost of build­ing af­ford­able homes on a high value site is “com­muted off ” and used to con­struct more homes in ar­eas with lower land val­ues. He said: “It means that in­stead of build­ing one big house in an af­flu­ent area, you get six or seven in an­other.” More joint ven­tures be­tween lo­cal au­thor­i­ties and devel­op­ers on pub­licly owned land were also called for.

Fringe ben­e­fits. En­cour­age more buy­ers to tar­get the af­ford­able fringes of Leeds city cen­tre. There was a con­sen­sus that this should be sup­ported by bet­ter trans­port links into cen­tral Leeds

Trans­port links and in­fra­struc­ture are the key to un­lock­ing land for de­vel­op­ment. The new train sta­tions at Kirk­stall Forge and Ap­per­ley Bridge on the Leeds line were put for­ward as ex­am­ples of how rail can spark a re­nais­sance.

The state should pro­vide new rail and road links and es­sen­tial ameni­ties in ar­eas with brown­field land suit­able for de­vel­op­ment. This “build it and they will come” ap­proach is the best way to cre­ate sus­tain­able new com­mu­ni­ties.

Leeds needs homes. York­shire is a re­gion of great cities but Leeds is the cap­i­tal and the eco­nomic ar­gu­ment for more hous­ing here is strong. How­ever, there are fears that the coun­cil’s de­vel­op­ment land al­lo­ca­tion plan will not cater for the need. Ac­cord­ing to many of the win­ners’ din­ner ex­perts, an im­pres­sive mas­ter­plan and more homes are needed if busi­nesses are to grow and oth­ers are to re­lo­cate to the city. Ed­u­cat­ing peo­ple about the eco­nomic and so­cial ben­e­fits of new hous­ing is vi­tal.

Bank fi­nance is the main bar­rier to hous­ing de­vel­op­ment. Al­though the Hous­ing White Paper an­nounced fi­nan­cial sup­port for small to medi­um­sized devel­op­ers, they have im­mense dif­fi­culty in get­ting bank loans struc­tured to their needs. One ex­pert said that the banks had not “re­cal­i­brated their lend­ing cri­te­ria” since the re­ces­sion.

The plan­ning process needs to be less com­bat­ive. One ex­pert said: “There is an ‘us ver­sus them’ ap­proach and a sus­pi­cion that devel­op­ers are there to ride roughshod over the coun­cil. In fact, devel­op­ers are a lot more so­cially re­spon­si­ble than they were 20 years ago.” The eco­nomic ad­van­tages of con­struc­tion should be high­lighted: more jobs, more ap­pren­tices and stim­u­lus for eco­nomic growth.

The con­clu­sion was that a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing be­tween lo­cal author­ity plan­ning de­part­ments, coun­cil­lors and all those in­volved in hous­ing de­liv­ery and as­sess­ing need is im­per­a­tive. Cen­tral gov­ern­ment also needs to take re­spon­si­bil­ity for plan­ning and fund­ing trans­port links and in­fra­struc­ture to stim­u­late hous­ing growth. Moan­ing, neg­a­tiv­ity and mis­trust should be re­placed with a “can do” at­ti­tude so that fu­ture hous­ing needs in York­shire are met. Manch­ester was held as a shin­ing ex­am­ple.

Its vi­sion, joint ven­tures, pos­i­tive ap­proach and am­bi­tious hous­ing de­liv­ery plan for the city core and sub­urbs have brought eco­nomic wealth. It is now Bri­tain’s fastest grow­ing city – and yet ev­ery­one agreed that York­shire has just as much, if not more, to of­fer as a place to live and work.

Leeds des­per­ately needs more homes to sup­port eco­nomic growth, ac­cord­ing to ex­perts at the win­ners’ din­ner for the 2016 Va­ri­ety York­shire Res­i­den­tial Prop­erty Awards.

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