FEATURE: Opinions voiced on Sheffield City Region's need for 50, 000 extra housing

Tracey Nathan.
Tracey Nathan.

Central government must introduce a raft of changes if the Sheffield City Region is to have any chance of building more than 50, 000 new homes over the next decade to meet demand, housing associations have warned.

Homes for the North, an alliance of the 19 largest housing associations across the north of England, commissioned a study by housing research specialists Lichfield which showed the Steel City region will need at least 5, 395 homes built per annum for the next 10 years.

Paul Blomfield MP.

Paul Blomfield MP.

But if the region has any chance of meeting this target, Homes for the North said the Government must:-

*Adopt a regional housebuilding target to build more than 500, 000 homes across the north over 10 years

*Allocate more funds from the £3 billion Home Building Fund to the north to help speed up house building, and

*Create 'combined authorities' across regions who can work together more closely to identify potential housing development sites.

Tony Stacey OBE.

Tony Stacey OBE.

Here, representatives from a housing association, charity, an MP and an estate agents give their take on the challenges facing the property market over the next decade.

Tracey Nathan, manager of homeless charity Shelter in Sheffield, said: "Sadly, rising homelessness is the tragic consequence of a chronic lack of affordable homes combined with welfare cuts and unstable private renting.

"Every day at Shelter in Sheffield, we support families who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.

"And worryingly, right behind them stand thousands of other families barely able to pay their rent and constantly teetering on the brink of that awful situation.

Mark Ross, director at Redbrik.

Mark Ross, director at Redbrik.

"The government can’t continue to ignore the root cause of this crisis and the ordinary families most affected by it.

"These targets can’t be seen as merely aspirational, or homelessness will just continue to rise.

"It’s crucial that new homes are affordable for people – and that will mean a good proportion of genuinely affordable low-rent homes."

Paul Blomfield, Labour MP for Sheffield Central, said: "Housebuilding in the UK has fallen to its lowest level since the 1920s – and the consequences are there for all to see.

"The number of under 45’s who own their own home in England is down by over 904, 000 since 2010, with a huge growth in those forced into the private rented sector.

"As many as 119, 000 children live in temporary accommodation. There has been a 134 per cent increase in rough sleeping since 2010.

"The toxic combination of building too few homes and pushing up social rents has made the costs of buying and renting too much for too many.

"Innovative initiatives like Sheffield Housing Company, a partnership between the council, a private developer and a housing association, which has won national acclaim, is making a difference with great housing developments across the city.

"However, there’s still a big problem. Sheffield City Region needs 50, 000 new homes over the next decade.

"There’s only so much local councils can do, because they’re heavily constrained by caps on borrowing and cuts to grants that have hit planning and development departments.

"Labour realises that councils need support in building the homes communities need.

"In the June election, Labour promised to invest to build over a million new homes across the country, including at least 100, 000 affordable council and housing association homes for rent or sale a year.

"We would also have created a new Department for Housing tasked with driving through these policies, and ensuring good standards.

"And building new homes would have been a priority of our National Transformation Fund, as part of a joined-up industrial and skills strategy.

"The problems we face are not inevitable. They can be solved by Government action, as they have in the past. We simply need the political will and a new approach."

Tony Stacey OBE, chief executive of South Yorkshire Housing Association, said: "It is impossible to grow our local economy without building new homes to house people who will take up the jobs we create.

"Here’s the good news. Our local growth plan set a target of creating 70, 000 new jobs for the Sheffield City Region, and, after three years, we are significantly ahead of this number.

"The bad news is that the Sheffield City Region’s housing plan is to treble housing supply, but new house building is flat-lining.

"We should now be building 10, 000 new homes each year, and, for the last three years, new supply has been static at around 3, 000 new homes. Worse – a significant number of the new homes are purpose built blocks for students in the centre of Sheffield – important in themselves, but not addressing the central problem.

"This picture of under-supply is mirrored across the country. For the last 10 years we are building at around half the rate we need.

"The Sheffield City Region has one significant factor in its favour – we are not short of house building land. A recent study found there are enough housing plots to accommodate around 70, 000 new homes.

So what are the problems? Firstly, there are the house builders. Only nine out of the top 25 have any real presence in Yorkshire. House builders have choices.

"They gravitate to the areas where it is easier for them to develop and where they can maximise their profit margins.

"Low house prices and rental values locally mean that the Sheffield City Region is not automatically an attractive option for them. And the planners? Well, they could certainly do better. Local authorities have acknowledged this and are planning to develop City Region wide best practice.

"Secondly, there is the issue of infrastructure and contaminated sites. Here, the government’s housing agency, The Homes and Communities Agency, can help. South Yorkshire Housing Association hosted a visit from the HCA’s Chair, Sir Edward Lister, two weeks ago.

"Sir Edward was clear the HCA wants to help stimulate house building locally through acquiring sites, remediating brown field sites and injecting grant funding.

"Thirdly, there are the social housing providers. Last year sub-market housing accounted for 40 per cent of new supply nationally. Locally it was just 18 per cent.

"The local authorities and housing associations such as SYHA have recognised this issue and come together to set out a vision for ramping up supply.

"Their plan is set out in 'More New Homes for the Sheffield City Region'. Central to the plan is collaboration between all local housing providers to ensure new delivery models, innovative sources of funding and better collaborative working combine to make the Sheffield City Region a magnet for all housing development agencies.

"South Yorkshire Housing Association’s new scheme with Cheyne Capital is a case in point. This will see 225 flats developed in Sheffield’s Kelham Island area.

"Without recourse to government subsidy, SYHA will be able to let one third of the homes at sub-market rents. This is the first time this model has been tried in the UK.

"It is of course true that if we carry on doing what we have already done, we will get the same results. There are good reasons to be cheerful locally. With effective leadership and a determination to collaborate there is no reason at all why we cannot get that magnet working."

Mark Ross, director at Redbrik estate and letting agents, said: "One of the biggest challenges for home buyers and renters in the Sheffield City Region is the lack of available stock in the housing market.

"There is huge demand for quality, affordable housing across the region, which is not being met and there are simply not enough options for those looking to purchase or rent a home.

With so many fantastic developments in the Sheffield City Region at the moment – such as HS2, AMRC, Boeing and Channel 4 – the demand for excellent homes is only going to increase so now is the time for action.

"At Redbrik, we are working with numerous developers to try and bring more homes to the area. With fewer properties on the market, it is important that steps are taken to ensure that there is a steadier stream of new build properties becoming available in the region.

"We would hope that the often long, laborious, and expensive task of planning be streamlined and developers encouraged to come up with more creative, alternative solutions to help ease the demand for housing before the problem worsens.

"Build-to-rent schemes are a fantastic alternative to home ownership and are fast becoming a hot investment for investors across the UK. Developing purpose-built, top-quality rental homes that are close to the centre of urban conurbations is a fantastic way for the Sheffield City Region to reach their housing targets.

"Long-term renting is on the rise and build-to-rent properties are suited to those who are looking for more flexible living. These properties will appeal to the plethora of professional people set to be moving to our city – those who do not want, or simply cannot afford, to purchase their own home."