Leading UK residential financier, Urban Exposure today announces the launch of a series of policy proposals to help boost the housing market in the West Midlands.
The proposals together form Urban Exposure’s Housing Manifesto for the West Midlands, which the group has begun discussing with local policy makers this week.
Earlier this year Urban Exposure signed its first deal in the West Midlands by financing a development in the Digbeth regeneration area of Birmingham city centre. Since then, the group has been looking at ways of further supporting local developers to help accelerate the region’s housebuilding.
The full Housing Manifesto for the West Midlands is detailed below.
Commenting on the launch of Urban Exposure’s Housing Manifesto for the West Midlands, Randeesh Sandhu, Chief Executive of Urban Exposure, said:
“The West Midlands faces a growing housing crisis. Nearly 45,000 too few new homes were built over the last five years in the region* leaving a sizeable shortfall. The new Mayor has said that 165,000 new homes will be needed by 2030, but this will not be possible unless the hurdles holding back local developers are overcome. The Housing Manifesto for the West Midlands we have launched today seeks to address some of these key issues.
“Creating a more diverse and resilient housebuilding market in the West Midlands is crucial to increasing the number of homes built each year. That means greater diversity in the size and type of developers building the homes the region needs. It also requires a wider selection of lenders who can bring alternative expertise and commercial perspectives to make both large and small schemes potentially more viable.
“Large housing schemes remain an important part of the solution to the West Midlands housing needs. But it is the smaller developers and schemes that are currently under-represented. So we are calling on the new Combined Authority and local councils to hone their focus on supporting these smaller builders, whether through making it easier for them to access the finance they need, or ensuring the potential of this part of the sector is recognised in Local Plans.
“There is a lot more which the West Midlands can get out of the private development community and we believe that the proposals we outline in this Manifesto will help deliver the homes which people in the region need.”
Brian Berry, Chief Executive of the Federation of Master Builders, who have worked with Urban Exposure on their Manifesto, said: “We will always struggle to build the homes we need unless we can build a stronger locally-based house building sector. The numbers of small developers in operation have fallen by more than half since before the financial crisis in 2007 and this represents a very real loss of house building capacity in this county.”
“Local authorities and combined authorities could play a key role in helping to reverse this decline, and by doing so they will boost the delivery of new homes in their area and support locally-based growth and the creation of skilled jobs. The ideas put forward by Urban Exposure can help in just the ways that smaller scale builders need – improving access to finance, boosting opportunities for smaller scale development and strengthening the links between local and regional government and locally-based housed builders.”
Housing Manifesto for the West Midlands
DELIVERING MORE HOMES IN THE WEST MIDLANDS: POLICY PROPOSALS FROM URBAN EXPOSURE
Helping developers, in particular smaller developers, access finance
54% of respondents to the 2017 FMB House Builders Survey identified lack of finance as a barrier to increasing output
1. Creation of information portal for small public sector sites
Building on the work of the West Midlands Land Commission and ongoing efforts to identify public sector land in the West Midlands which is suitable for development, create a portal for the marketing of small sites suitable for development, and encourage small builders to sign up to this portal to access further information on and bid for these sites.
This portal would include a list of potential finance providers and other professionals (planners, lawyers, architects) that are experienced at dealing with these types of projects.
2. Open up Housing Investment Fund to private investors
Building on any local authority contributions to the proposed Housing Investment Fund, open up the Fund to private investors who will be able to purchase shares in the Fund in return for providing the Fund with additional capital. The investors would then receive a dividend from the Fund, but decisions on which projects the Fund supported would remain with the WMCA.
Creating a more diverse and resilient housing market
Fewer than one in eight new homes were being built by smaller companies in 2015, down from almost two in five in 1990 (HBF, Reversing the decline of small housebuilders, 2017)
3. Ensure Local Plans include commitments to supporting smaller house builders and developers
The West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) should work with both constituent and non-constituent local authorities in the West Midlands to ensure that their Local Plans include commitments to supporting smaller house builders and developers.
Promoting opportunities for development in the West Midlands
Helping deliver the 165,000 new homes the West Midlands needs by 2030
4. Launch early engagement programme with private developers on Housing Zone opportunities
Building on the Birmingham Development Plan 2031 and WMCA Review and Annual Plan, the WMCA and Birmingham City Council should together instigate a program of engagement within the private development community to showcase project and Housing Zone opportunities early in their inception and planning. A diverse pool of talent will bring innovation in design, planning, financing, construction methods and commercial structuring which could expedite project deliver and improve quality. This could be in the form of conferences, competitions, networking events and opportunity tours akin to those led by London Councils such as Bexley and Sutton.