Call for brownfield development to tackle looming housing crisis

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Housing associations are challenging ministers to hand over derelict brownfield land in the heart of city centres so more houses can be built to tackle a looming housing crisis.

The call from the National Housing Federation comes on the day it publishes its Home Truths report, which paints a damning picture of the problem in this region.

Last year in Hull there were 12,026 households on social housing waiting lists, 9,978 in the East Riding and about 21,000 in Leeds – the latter figure representing the same number of houses which could be built now if developers enacted planning permission granted by Leeds Council. However, the NHF wants the Government to speed up the release of land which has already been used for other developments, known as brownfield. It says only by doing so can a “housing time bomb” be defused.

The federation said the chronic lack of houses on the market had led to a dramatic rise in rents, bringing them almost to the same level as monthly mortgage repayments.

The number of new households is also greatly outstripping the pace of house building. Last year, 2,000 new households were formed in the East Riding and 1,800 in Hull, while each area saw only 460 and 440 new homes being built respectively.

Rob Warm, Yorkshire and Humber lead manager for the NHF, said: “The lack of affordable housing is a tragedy for families across the Humber who are helplessly watching as the cost of renting or buying a home spirals out of reach. We also know that various Government departments currently own disused land, such as derelict hospitals and disused schools, which could and should be used to build more homes.

“At the same time long-term youth unemployment in the Humber has risen. Building new homes and renovating existing ones is the quickest and most effective way to boost a local economy where we know construction is suffering. This would help solve the Humber’s housing crisis and create jobs and in the construction industry for a generation who can’t find work.”

The report also found that homelessness rose by 26 per cent across the region in the past two years. Local authorities accepted 4,900 households as homeless in 2011/12, and housing associations are at the sharp end of this, often helping people who are in the most need to find a place to live.

The federation is calling on the Government and the whole housing industry to take a long-term, joined up approach to tackle the market difficulties.

More immediately, the federation said, the Government “must” release publicly owned brownfield land to housing associations so they can build more houses. Using the Government’s own data, it identified sites equivalent to land twice the size of Hull that could be built on now.

The campaign will also try to explain why new housing developments are necessary.

Mr Warm said: “Public support for building more homes is also crucial and we need to encourage their voices to be heard above those of the so called NIMBYs or ‘not-in-my-back-yard’ groups, who often campaign against new housing developments.

“These are the same people who often moan that there are no affordable houses for their children - what we’re saying is, there will be houses if we get them built but we need local people to support new developments.”

Private rents have actually fallen slightly in Hull and East Riding over the past couple of years, but the NHF’s Oxford Economics report recently forecast that they are set to rise sharply over the next decade – by 50.4 per cent across the Humber region by 2020.