'We must not overlook the unique housing challenges in the North.'
Any response to the housing crisis must take into account the unique housing challenges in the North, says Stephanie Kelley.
Our response to the housing crisis must be about much more than supply and affordability.
The North of England is in the midst of its own unique housing crisis which goes much further than just supply and cost. There’s an acute problem both with the quality of the housing available and the region’s ability to realise economic growth.
It is encouraging to see the government will conduct a full review of social housing, and it is imperative that the North has a voice in that review. Because if demand solutions are solely focused on the capital, the South East and other areas where the supply and affordability of housing are the overriding issues, there could be serious consequences for people living in the North and the region’s economic future.
The issue is further compounded by the so-called brain drain plight, which is seeing talented professionals moving away from the North because of the lack of variety in quality housing options.
Last week I was invited to a parliamentary event hosted by Homes for the North, an alliance of 19 large housing associations which want to deliver more homes in the North and realise economic success for the region. They believe good quality homes are the backbone of a strong economy and thriving communities.
Their research shows more than 500,000 homes are needed in the North of England over the next decade and crucially that the government needs to set a building target to stop the migration of skilled workers to London and attract much-needed investment.
According to Mark Henderson, chairman of Homes for the North, over the past decade 300,000 highly skilled workers have left the North. At the event he urged the government to stem this to ensure our regional economies have the ability to flourish and compete with London.
He’s right; much of the debate over projected demand and affordability has been centred on the capital, suppressing other issues which are region specific. Highly-skilled and talented individuals are moving from the North to areas with better quality housing, more diverse tenure options and better infrastructure and so far little has been done to fix this.
If we are to help the North realise its ambitions and end this housing crisis we must acknowledge that a one-size-fits-all solution will not solve problems which are exclusive to areas outside of the capital.
In response to Homes for the North, Sajid Javid welcomed the housing bodies’ ambitions to build more homes and said it was “entirely in line with the government’s plans to increase housing supply”. This is great news but I can’t help feeling once again the quality and diversity of the housing required has been lost along the way.
When we talk about the housing crisis we need to make a concerted effort to give more thought to what measures are required to fix the broken housing market in all areas of the country and weave that into any feedback we give government.
It’s true we need new homes across the UK, but that alone will not be enough in the North. We need a commitment to create better quality housing with a clear choice of tenure to stop the brain drain and secure a strong economic future.
Stephanie Kelley is CIH's regional manager for the North of England.
- Leading figures in the sector will explore the unique housing challenges for the North and much more at our North East Conference and Exhibition on 16 and 17 November. Click here to find out more or book your place.