NW in 2018 | A public-private push

Next year needs to be the year we make a real effort to do more than just talk about public-private sector collaboration to help deliver those ambitious housing targets and regeneration plans, writes Tahreen Shad of Lovell Partnerships.

The industry needs a shake-up. We need innovation in modular housing at scale and development of fringe areas, to drive housing supply and help improve employment in our communities.

The challenge in this is not least the brave step to develop at scale for modular.

For industries such as the nuclear sector in Cumbria and North Wales, there will be a requirement for quick and ready sheds for workers’ accommodation, especially in areas like Barrow which have huge growth predictions and have been historically neglected by house builders and industry.

For modular to succeed elsewhere, it needs some bold public sector intervention to build at scale. Current estimates are that modular building is between 20 – 30% more expensive than traditional construction. Until this method of construction is developed at scale, the benefits will be limited.

The industry needs better incentives to build in challenging areas, for example in typically neglected areas in East Lancashire and Greater Manchester, and beyond traditional housebuilder territory greenfield sites. Andy Burnham’s fund for regenerating towns will be interesting; those neglected towns need to be concentrated on, away from the glitz of Manchester and the big cities.

Retail and town centre-led development that includes a mix of housing at affordable levels whether PRS, affordable homes for both rent and sale, or alternative tenures, is crucial to enabling local people to live in quality housing.

Developers need to collaborate with the public sector to release under-used public land for development – offering a fair return, quality and value to the public sector. There are significant public sector opportunities that need private sector collaboration, including new transport hubs in the North West.

The private rented sector market has tended to focus on towers in our big cities, but a real alternative tenure is low-rise PRS housing for families and young people. Brownfield development and taking a proactive role in the remediation and packaging of sites as opposed to transactional arrangements will be key if we are to start any meaningful partnerships.

A number of local authorities are in the process of setting up local housing companies. This is great news as it could turn into the large-scale municipal council building programmes of the past, which in turn could evolve into the establishment of a radical technical skills delivery programme desperately required by the industry.

An effort at scale would release land for hundreds of thousands of new homes. I’m confident that where we have proactive, pro-growth local authorities, they will work with partners to bring these much needed sites to market.

  • Tahreen Shad is regional partnerships director at Lovell Partnerships

The North West in 2018 series features guest contributors looking ahead to next year and is published throughout December.

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