Memorandum by The Housing Corporation
The Housing Corporation (the Corporation) welcomes
the opportunity to give evidence to the Committee's inquiry into
the New Towns: their problems and future.
B. THE CORPORATION'S
The Corporation distributes funding to housing
associations via its Approved Development Programme (ADP); the
amount provided under this programme will rise to over £1.2
billion in 2003-04.
The Corporation has three key investment objectives:
(i) providing new, affordable housing in
areas of economic and demographic growth;
(ii) contributing to regeneration and neighbourhood
(iii) meeting the needs of a wide range of
All are relevant to the New Towns.
C. THE CORPORATION'S
There are a number of areas where the Corporation
might contribute to the future development of the New Towns.
(i) Providing additional affordable housing
The New Towns were built about 50 years ago
in areas of high demand to meet that demand. Most of the original
affordable housing in these towns is in local authority ownership.
The location of many of the New Towns is very
important. They are sited in the South East of England in locations
close to London. One of the issues facing the South East of England
is finding places where new housing, including affordable housing,
can be sited to meet the increasing demand. The New Towns could
usefully contribute to meeting this need. The Corporation and
housing associations could provide an element of the affordable
housing that would be needed.
The Corporation has recently been discussing
with English Partnerships how we might work together in the New
Towns to provide affordable housing in areas of high demand. We
are considering how best English Partnerships' land and powers
and Corporation ADP funding can be put together to achieve the
wider objectives of securing affordable housing development more
cheaply and effectively than is now the case. We have agreed to
develop a framework for working together and are focusing on two
case studies Basildon and Milton Keynes. Our intention is to develop
a protocol for joint working which is clear about the roles and
responsibilities of the various players, including English Partnerships,
the Corporation, local authorities and housing associations, and
the terms and conditions under which land, funds and other resources
are made available.
(ii) Regenerating existing estates
The affordable housing in the New Towns is largely
owned by the local authority and is up to 50 years old. The houses
are therefore approaching a time when they could need considerable
work to ensure that they are fit for purpose.
In the Housing White Paper published in December
2000, the Government set out its view that transfer of local authority
stock to housing associations should continue and indeed increase.
When local authority stock is transferred to housing associations
private finance is raised to fund improvements to that stock.
Transfer may therefore provide a mechanism for funding improvements
to existing affordable housing in the New Towns. However the particular
design and maintenance features of this stock makes valuation
difficult and this will need to be addressed.
As part of its work in regeneration, the Corporation
is piloting a number of new tools. In one of the New Towns, Telford,
there is a problem with poor quality stock which is adversely
affecting the area in which it is sited. We are considering an
application to fund the acquisition and demolition of the privately
owned stock to improve the surrounding area and increase the value
of neighbouring stock. We are currently evaluating the use of
acquisition and demolition and other new tools in regeneration.
(iii) Housing Market Renewal
One of the issues that has come to the fore
recently is that of housing market decline and collapse. In some
areas there have been significant problems with housing markets
leading to a rapid decline in demand and increasing numbers of
vacant properties. Although this has initially been seen as a
Northern problem there is evidence that it is more widespread.
The Corporation is supportive of proposals being
worked-up for a Housing Market Renewal Fund which would be used
to restructure housing markets in areas where they have failed.
The National Housing Federation, in collaboration with the Key
Cities Housing Group and the Northern Housing Forums commissioned
a paper from Birmingham University which sets out the case and
uses for such a fund.
One area which has been affected by housing
market decline and might benefit from a Housing Market renewal
Fund is the Birmingham/Sandwell area which is close to Telford.
It has become increasingly clear that housing markets do not operate
in isolation. Additional provision in one area can lead to decline
in neighbouring area. Thus it will be important to consider any
future development in Telford against the background of what is
happening in the Birmingham/Sandwell area. It would be unfortunate
if growth in Telford was to exacerbate decline in these two areas.