The West Midlands Local Government Association’s Meeting the Housing Challenge conference at the Molineux stadium in Wolverhampton promoted current successes across the region and highlighted the increasing pressures and demands in the years to come.
Keynote speaker Sir Michael Lyons, chairman of the English Cities Fund, recently completed the Lyons Housing Commission – a road map for building 200,000 homes a year by 2020.
He told the conference: “House building has now come to the forefront in the general election campaign. While house building has increased, only half as many houses as we need are being built each year. We need a bolder approach from the Government and a more joined up working across all agencies. The best local authorities are not sitting around waiting for the Government to pave the way. Local action and some risk taking are essential in order to get homes built. We also need to look at how we can make housing less expensive – the dream of home ownership is getting more and more distant for many people. Stronger collaborative working is already taking place in the West Midlands which is encouraging.”
Over 90 delegates from across the region attended the city-council hosted event to discuss common themes including development opportunities, how to overcome barriers such as building on adverse ground conditions and how to deliver enough affordable homes. They also shared notable regional achievements – including kick-starting housing projects which had stalled because of the recession, securing funding through the Growth Deal and developing sites which previously hadn’t been considered for housing.
Government figures which show that although house building is at its highest since 2007, there is still a need to increase the rate of building to meet growing demand. In Wolverhampton, the first council houses built in three decades have been completed in recent weeks, while a major house building scheme is about to get underway in Bilston. Across the region, there have been a range of award-winning housing schemes and in January this year, the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) announced that three West Midlands sites (in Dudley, Sandwell and Stoke) had been shortlisted to become housing zones, making it easier and quicker to build new homes on brownfield land.
City council leader Roger Lawrence told delegates: “In Wolverhampton housing development is increasing. We do have issues around ensuring we are providing for all and around land reclamation in the city. Across the region we have many common interests and so it is important that we work collectively together with social landlords and private sector builders.”