As research by CIH, Poplar HARCA and Sheffield Hallam University's CRESR is launched today (9 May), policy and practice officer David Pipe explains why it's vital that regeneration schemes are developed in the right way.
Regeneration is now very much back on the political agenda, following the Prime Minister’s announcement that he will make £140 million of loan funding available to kick-start the transformation of 100 English estates. This follows a lengthy period over which little political attention has been paid to improving housing standards in the most deprived parts of the country.
And when regeneration has been talked about, it hasn’t always been in positive terms. In London there has, understandably, been much concern about ‘gentrification’ and the danger that regeneration projects could see existing communities priced out of their area. Similarly, some of the rhetoric attached to the Prime Minister’s announcement around demolishing so called ‘sink estates’ has left many concerned that social housing might be demolished and replaced with expensive homes for the better off.
It is worth remembering though that, when done well, housing-led regeneration can deliver substantial benefits, including new homes to help address our national housing shortage and improved conditions for existing residents. Our research, carried out with Poplar HARCA and the Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research (CRESR) at Sheffield Hallam University highlights a number of examples of successful regeneration.
It shows that:
- investing in housing-led regeneration provides a good return, and that a mix of public and private investment could help to get more schemes off the ground
- kick-starting an increase in regeneration could deliver more of the homes we badly need. Some of the case studies involved in our research were bringing brownfield sites not previously used for housing into use, while others were increasing the density of existing residential areas to deliver a net increase in homes overall
- understanding the local context and the needs and aspirations of the existing community is vital to getting regeneration right. In particular the mix of different housing options which are ultimately provided needs to be determined by local need, meaning that there will still be a need to retain affordable rented options alongside affordable and outright home ownership
For example in the North Prospect area of Plymouth, Plymouth Community Homes are delivering a 10 year plan which will see 300 affordable homes refurbished and another 600 demolished, along with around 200 owner occupied properties, and replaced with 1,100 new homes. This will mean more homes overall on a mixed tenure development but, crucially, no reduction in the number of affordable rented units available.
And the existing community is benefiting from improved standards as, prior to work commencing, 60 per cent of homes in the area failed to meet the Decent Homes Standard. These kinds of improvements make a real difference to people’s lives, with residents in North Prospect reporting knock on improvements in areas like health and education:
- "My new house is so warm. Where I was before was so cold you could see your breath. My children and I would literally live in my bedroom, only going downstairs for a drink or to cook food."
- "The school say my daughter is a lot more settled, happy and confident since we moved and getting on much better with her school work. Every winter she would suffer with her tonsils but she has been much healthier since we moved to our new home."
So it is positive that the government is now looking to kick-start more regeneration activity, but it is also vital that schemes are developed in the right way. Our research sets out what successful regeneration looks like through a series of case studies and contains some recommendations for government and for their new advisory panel, led by Sir Michael Heseltine.