Examination of Witnesses (Questions 180
TUESDAY 6 NOVEMBER 2001
180. Do you not know them?
(Mr Styche) No, because the Secretary of State is
currently considering recommendations for the new public inquiry.
Until he has come out with conclusions, we cannot say what they
(Mr Steinberg) I do not think we have sufficient resources
in place to tackle some of the things you have seen in the last
48 hours. We have gone through a process, in a number of areas,
of research. There are reports, which we have given to this Committee,
that outline the tools at our disposal to meet some of the issues
which have come about in the last five or ten years. We do not
have the resources at our disposal to turn round all the areas.
There is an expectation that the authorities and the corporation
will respond, in every instance. In other words, there is an expectation
that all communities can be regenerated.
181. You do not think you can tell us how many
houses are coming out of the system?
(Mr Steinberg) In totality for the north west, I do
not have the figures but I will send them from the perspective
of the corporation.
182. Do you have the figures, as the Housing
Corporation, North, as to how many more houses you have built
over the last five years than you have demolished and what your
expectations would be over the next five years?
(Mr Steinberg) Demolitions are carried out largely
by local authorities although associations carry out some of their
own demolition programmes.
183. You have a capital budget to spend. Presumably
in allocating those capital grants you take into account what
is going on. You should know how many houses have been taken out
of the system.
(Mr Steinberg) For housing associations, I do know
184. What is the implication for housing associations
if quite a lot of their stock is taken out? Could that not mean
those housing associations go bust?
(Mr Steinberg) The first implication for the question
is that increasingly in replacement housing the numbers do not
balance. We know the figures for housing associations in terms
of the houses being taken out by associations and we have some
information coming through the HIP report from local authorities
about the totality of the housing. What we lack information on
is private sector housing, which is increasingly being researched
by us. Coming back to the second part of the Chairman's question,
if some of the reports we are seeing are proved to be correct,
this in my view raises a question mark about some associations'
part in this. To the extent the corporation is concerned about
that, I have initiated a study with Manchester City Council about
the number of associations currently operating and there are something
like 45 to 50 operating housing associations in Manchester.
185. You are avoiding the question. Do the associations
go bust? There are different implications for that on credit rating
for the whole of the housing sector. The alternative is that properties
in desired streets are sold for profit to reduce debt. Would that
not be disastrous?
(Mr Steinberg) I was not trying to avoid the question.
It is open to question. Most will survive.
186. In the past, the ones not surviving have
been taken over by different bodies who have said, "For the
good of housing, we will take this association over, even if it
has a considerable debt to bring with it." Is that going
(Mr Steinberg) No, because no doubt it is increasingly
unattractive to some associations to take on some of these properties.
187. There are 18,000 empty homes in Liverpool.
Should they be filled or demolished?
(Mr Styche) Some are undoubtedly capable of being
restored, renovated and refilled. There are others which are probably
beyond that. It is a matter of fact that there are now too many
of a particular house type around to meet the market demand. Most
of what has happened is about people's aspirations. People used
to be content to occupy a two up, two down or a Victorian terraced
property. Now they aspire to something better. Part of the task
we have at the moment is understanding how that market works and
deciding what we need to do in similar areas across the region
to make them sufficiently attractive for people to aspire to move
(Mr Steinberg) You will have seen deprivation forcing
decline in some areas and some of the areas which are deprived
are exactly the same as they were 22 years ago, despite the programmes
we have put in, because people have been voting with their feet.
We face a significant demolition programme in Liverpool and this
cannot be avoided.
188. Would you like to see any estimate of the
balance in that 18,000?
(Mr Styche) I had a discussion a couple of days ago
with colleagues from Liverpool City Council and they were talking
in terms of two for one. If it is 18,000, we are talking about
maybe ten remaining at the end.
189. Are there any new programmes or resources
that we need to be able to develop strategies?
(Mr Steinberg) Liverpool's inner core does not exist
in isolation. As a Liverpudlian, I watched successfully developed
speculative housing on the eastern fringe of Liverpool draw population
out of the city. We are talking about conurbational issues here.
I would venture figures not dissimilar to Peter's. We do not have
at our disposal the kind of funds to effectively intervene in
the housing market but we can work with owner occupiers who may
be in negative equity, who may aspire to stay in occupation, but
who appear to be moving to rent. You will be aware from the briefing
you have had on the new tools that the corporation has been investing
in some older private housing areas. These tools are going to
be extended in the Liverpool and Wirral areas, but they are still
small scale. These kind of proposals, evaluated by universities
in the Midlands, can, in Liverpool and other key cities mean very
effective interventions in those markets. But intervening at only
one level will not turn those markets round.
190. What is wrong with planning policy if we
have new houses in low demand areas and more problems in the inner
(Mr Styche) It is difficult for me to answer this
in a specific way because I cannot comment on the merits of what
the Regional Planning Guidance says. The Secretary of State may
possibly. It is not so much a problem with the policy. We have
PPG3 etc. The planning system is very slow to adapt to market
191. In giving advice to the Secretary of State,
do you know how many planning permissions have been granted on
greenfield sites in the north west?
(Mr Styche) I do not at the moment. We did produce
some figures in the Policy Action Team 7 Report for parts of the
north west based on a fairly random survey we did two years ago.
We could do that again, but I do not have the figures available
(Mr Steinberg) There has also to be better coordination
between ourselves and the Regional Planning Guidance, the Regional
Economic Strategy and the RDAs in place so that there is clarity
between planning guidance and the development of housing. Within
the current review of RPG, we can do useful work locally to interface
properly with the economic strategy statement, so that there is
the synergy for things to happen very effectively.
192. Where should that be targeted from? Should
it be a guidance from the RDAs or the Regional Assembly?
(Mr Steinberg) Through communication channels and
transmission mechanisms. It is incumbent on us and others who
are not here, whether the RDA chief executive and other bodies,
the Assembly perhaps in the north west, to ensure that this happens.
193. It is not happening at the moment.
(Mr Steinberg) No, not as effectively as it could.
194. Undoubtedly there is some very robust economic
growth going on in the north west and we have seen it here in
the centre of Manchester. I represent the booming city of Chester.
How do you feel the benefits of that economic growth can be harnessed
to help improve these unpopular neighbourhoods?
(Mr Styche) It is essentially about aspirations and
image. The reason we now have the National Neighbourhood Renewal
Strategy which talks about a coordinated, comprehensive approach
to issues of deprivation, looking at a whole range of issues,
is because in many of these cases the state of the housing stock
is not the problem. It is about perceptions and image, crime,
fear of crime, quality of education and so on. We have to get
all that right alongside housing issues.
195. How are we going to stop this enormous
pressure of building on the green fields of Cheshire, so that
it takes account of the Manchester housing stock?
(Mr Styche) We have to create the conditions in the
conurbations which will attract people and make people want to
live in Liverpool and Manchester inner cities.
196. Do you feel that community regeneration
programmes should be targeted at the worst first areas or should
they be targeted at that are perhaps teetering towards the edge?
(Mr Styche) The stock Civil Service reaction is to
say it is a local decision but there is an argument which says
we need to look at both. We need to probably pay more attention
to areas which are on the brink than in the past. We have tended
to concentrate on the most deprived areas and there is concern
that that might not be the most appropriate approach in every
197. Given the limited amount of money, the
first evidence from the Abbey Hey Residents' Association said
the housing market in their terraced housing is fragile. A bit
of effort put there now might save spending a lot more money in
a few years' time. If it is a choice between something like that
and one of the areas we saw this morning, where the market has
just gone and it would take a lot more resources, if you have
a choice for resources, should it be to support areas which are
fragile or to try to sort out the problems of those that have
(Mr Steinberg) There is an expectation about that,
all communities can be saved. We should become more involved with
those that are fragile. There are areas in the north west where
we have tried, for a number of years, to support people's willingness
to stay. But there is to be more demolition.
198. Will you tell those people?
(Mr Steinberg) I worked for a local authority in a
past life and it is very difficult when the government policy
seems to indicate that all communities should have the right of
surviving in perpetuity in all cases. I cannot see that policy
makers and funders can guarantee that. When I was a child in Liverpool
in the fifties, it had a population of 750,000; it is 420,000
today and this highlights the problems faced by the people in
these areas. In some areas, the housing is just not sustainable.
You could argue that perhaps a new deal in Kensington would have
undoubted benefits for that area. However the housing market will
suck more people into that area, perhaps creating an even more
chaotic housing market. We have to create conurbational strategies.
We will continue with some of the things we have done in the past
and not recognise the ebbs and flows that take place in housing
markets which do not respect local authority boundaries at all.
199. Are you saying the new deal for communities
programme is a mistake?
(Mr Steinberg) No. We have to have housing strategies
into which agencies like ours and the department can get involved.
These must not be in isolation.
3 Note by witness: Figures will be supplied
as an annex to the Corporation's general submission of evidence
in December. Back