HOUSING faces a crisis in Britain, with a series of factors combining to create a perfect storm that is both causing problems now and storing up more for the future. That much is clear from the first major review of home ownership in more than a decade, which raises matters of serious concern as well as offering possible solutions deserving of consideration.
Conventional wisdom has it that more house-building is the answer to Britain’s difficulties in providing enough homes for a rapidly-expanding population, but the report makes the thought-provoking point that this will not provide the whole solution.
Instead it paints a worrying picture of chronic underfunding in both the public and private sectors over many years, allied to a culture of short-term thinking that has failed to plan for the future. It is the young who have been the victims of this combination of failings. First-time buyers struggle to get their foot on the property ladder because wage increases have not matched rising prices, or the need to save ever-bigger deposits.
The result is that the dream of home ownership for many remains frustratingly out of reach, with far-reaching personal consequences, including being stuck on a rental merry-go-round or having to live with parents long after wishing to be independent.
One of the factors in the crisis is the under-development of brownfield and derelict urban sites. It is understandable that buyers of new homes would prefer them on the edge of open countryside, but pressures on the greenbelt and resistance of communities to having their fields built on makes such aspirations unrealistic. More urban sites must be developed.
If a generation is not to be denied their own homes, a comprehensive long-term plan involving public and private sector investment is required. For without it, the housing crisis will only deepen.
Culture clash - City bid must go forward
A CONSTANT theme in all the assurances from the Government about Brexit has been that it will not result in Britain pulling up the drawbridge and severing amicable relations with Europe.
Yet if Culture Secretary Karen Bradley has her way and withdraws this country from the 2023 European Capital of Culture bid, that is precisely the signal that will be sent.
And for our region, that would jeopardise what is an excellent chance of Leeds taking the title and reaping a huge economic reward worth hundreds of millions of pounds and a major boost to tourism.
This withdrawal must be strongly resisted. A huge amount of money, at least £500,000, has already been spent on preparing the Leeds bid, which is crucial to the long-term ambitions and success of the city.
The kudos and investment the title would bring are a golden opportunity to showcase both the city and the region on a global stage.
It would also cast Leeds and Yorkshire as cultural ambassadors for Britain, a role we are more than happy to fulfil. We have all seen what a profound impact UK City of Culture status is already having on Hull, so imagine a similar boost for Leeds.
Such a prize is too important to become a political football for Mrs Bradley, and we need assurances from the Government that it will not become so at this relatively late stage.
Happily, her view is opposed by the Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, who wishes the 2023 bid to go forward and give Leeds its chance. Since his is the more influential voice of the two ministers, it is to be hoped he prevails.
County’s sculptural excellence
ONE of the greatest Yorkshire cultural triumphs in recent years has been to establish the county as the unrivalled European capital of sculpture. Visitors from across the world flock to our Sculpture Triangle that embraces the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, The Hepworth, Wakefield, the Henry Moore Institute and Leeds Art Gallery, a closely-linked network of artistic excellence and inspiration.
Our pre-eminence is underlined today with the announcement of the inaugural winner of the Hepworth Prize for Sculpture, in Wakefield. The prize will undoubtedly take its place amongst Britain’s most prestigious arts events.
It is comes as Barbara Hepworth’s seminal 1970 work The Family of Man has been restored at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, where it is seen by 500,000 visitors a year. These numbers are proof not only of the world-class sculptural treasures Yorkshire has, but underlines the importance of the arts to our tourism economy.