Manchester authority chief welcomes housing white paper potential

13 Jul 17

February’s housing white paper “signalled government has started to understand some of the key issues” that hold back housing delivery, CIPFA conference heard from Eamonn Boylan, chief executive of the Greater Manchester Combined Authority.

He said governments of all kinds had previously “failed consistently to rise to challenge” of building the homes needed to meet demand and had instead relied on a failed model of assuming the housebuilding industry could construct sufficient homes to meet need.

“Can volume house builders sort it out? “ Boylan asked. “No, that sector is driven by margins and will ‘build one and sell one’.

“It’s a very effective business model for them but will not build homes at the scale and speed we need. “

He said it was also wrong to blame the planning system for slow delivery of homes – noting that Greater Manchester had 48,000 unused planning permissions for homes, and cited an issue in post-industrial areas where low land values meant it was difficult to make a site viable when “it has the entire periodic table below it”, meaning costly clearance of pollutants would be needed.

Housing delivery faced a major threat from Brexit, Boylan said, with the industry’s perennial skills shortages likely to be worsened by any exodus of workers from other EU countries.

He said: “We need to diversify investment and use the public sector balance sheet to take forward works, unlock assets and encourage a view of housing as an investment class for institutions because private rent is part of the solution.

“We need to change image of poor landlords that still persists. Looking at institutional investors, the best designed and best managed new homes are those for private rent and they take a 50 years’ perspective on income. Properly constructed and built by responsible institutions they are a really, really, valuable addition to landscape.”

Boylan said the conurbation needed to build far more homes and of a wider variety as its present stock could be a barrier to investment.

“Would-be investors have decided not to come to Manchester as we do not we the range and quality in our housing supply for their workforce, it is a barrier to growth”, he said.

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