The North is coming home
A major conference in Leeds will hear the evidence and discuss the case for putting homes at the heart of the Northern Powerhouse’s growth agenda
Homes for the North Conference 2019
14 November 2019 Hilton Leeds City
Putting Homes at the Heart of Northern Growth
The conference will be looking at the hurdles and the barriers we face, the challenges we must overcome, but it will also present the solutions
THE North has a lot to say for itself and lately it’s taken to voicing its demands in an ever-more confident and – crucially – collective manner; no longer prepared to accept a sidelined position in the nation’s affairs. About time, too.
Across the spectrum of leadership – in politics, town halls, transport, business and more – the North is working together as never before, to forge the case for making the Northern Powerhouse more than just a politician’s slogan.
The housing sector in our part of the world is no different; its chiefs are also mustering to make the case for a North that has much greater authorship of its fate, as a one-day conference in Leeds next month will testify.
Homes for the North (H4N), in association with Northern Housing magazine, is hosting a prestigious line-up of speakers (see below) with luminaries such a Lord Kerslake, chair of the UK2070 Commission; John Cridland, chair of Transport for the North; Paul Dennett, Salford city mayor; not to mention leading lights from the North’s housing sector.
A mix of keynote speeches, panel discussions, and breakout sessions will explore the hot topics affecting our region. Yes, it will be looking at the hurdles and the barriers we face, the challenges we must overcome, but it will also present the solutions, backed by evidence that leaves little doubt of our regions’ clout. Given the right tools, the North can live up to the powerhouse and put its full weight behind the push for national growth.
Housing has a big role to play, of course, but it can’t do it in isolation. The conference theme is simple enough: putting homes at the heart of Northern growth. It’s not a simple matter of just building the homes, though; nor even a matter of identifying the right type of housing in the right place, although both are clearly essential factors.
No, there’s the question of investment; a matter of infrastructure. The North needs new homes, to meet existing demand, but also to accommodate future demand born of growth. These homes can’t fulfil their purpose without the facilities to support them, or the transport links that bind them together as living places, that can thrive economically, socially, and culturally.
That essential symbiosis is a core part of the conference theme. As H4N said in The Role of Housing in the Northern Powerhouse, released earlier this year, the North of England needs an extra two million new homes by 2050. The report argues that housing must be integrated into the wider picture of economic regeneration; joined up with planning for infrastructure and transport. This means a pan- Northern strategic approach. Key themes include:
- Housing will be a key enabler, alongside transport and skills, in unlocking Northern economic and social potential and therefore needs to be recognised as essential infrastructure
- Housing supply is “inelastic” and is therefore slow to react to changing economic circumstances. This means the ‘predict and provide’ approach to planning should be replaced by an approach that is like Transport for the North’s approach to planning the future transport system, based on ‘vision and validate’
- More and better housing is needed if the planned transport investment is to fully unlock the economic potential of the North. That means a shift to a higher skilled, more productive economy
- Transport investment increases the range of choices available for meeting emerging strategic housing needs. This includes unlocking new housing but also better linking existing housing to areas with high quality employment opportunities
The report notes: “Failing to provide the right housing in the right places will inhibit economic growth. A strong local housing offer is critical to attract and retain highly skilled workers. History has shown that housing will not ‘follow’ high pace growth organically, and markets have failed to deliver until prices have risen and affordability suffered. Government intervention to correct housing market failures over many decades proves that housing should not be treated as an afterthought.”
Need is one thing; the means to satisfy it are quite another. The North tends to get rather shrift when it comes to central government allocation of resources, as this and further examples of H4N’s research examines.
In September, H4N published its latest research. The title is something of a mouthful – The Changing Spatial Distribution of Housing Investment 1998-2022: Impact & Implications for the North – but its findings leave something of a sour taste, it must be said.
Essentially, the North is being starved of resources: over the last 20 years, the share of UK public expenditure in housing targeted at the North has gone down from 24% in 1998 to 17.8% over the last 20 years. The North’s current share of funding is “much lower” than its share of the UK population, which is 23.3%.
What’s more, the Government recently announced a change in the way five key funding schemes such as the Housing Infrastructure Fund and the Estates Regeneration Fund – are allocated. This tightens focus on areas of “highest affordability pressure”, squeezing out other areas in need. As H4N notes, only 11 of the 72 Northern local authorities would meet the criteria.
“This has resulted in a spatially targeted funding allocation framework that will see a significant amount of Government funding allocated to areas in London and the South East,” says the report.
The document adds: “This report shows that the current direction of Government policy regarding public expenditure on housing could reduce the North’s share of investment moving forward by nearly 50%.”
This is just a flavour of H4N’s research, of course, and only the briefest insight into the topics set to be discussed in Leeds next month. No spoilers, but expect some lively debate. The North assembles.
# # #
THE Homes for the North Conference is presenting a prestigious line-up of speakers:
Chair of Homes for the North, and chief executive of Riverside Housing
Lord Bob Kerslake
Chair of UK2070 Commission
Chair, Transport for the North
MP for Thirsk & Malton and member of the Housing, Communities & Local Government Select Committee
Chief executive, Town & Country Planning Association
Chief executive, Onward Homes
Salford city mayor, and the Greater Manchester Combined Authority’s portfolio holder for housing, planning and homelessness
Director, Northern Powerhouse Partnership
Chief executive, Gentoo Group
Vice chair, NP11
Director of market, partners and places – North, Homes England
Executive director, Karbon Homes
Chair, Together Housing and Great Places Commission
Executive director, Great Places Housing Group
Former leader, Trafford Council
Director, Thirteen Group
Head of member relations, National Housing Federation
Director, Newground CIC
Managing director, Together Energy
Head of Transport Economics, CEBR
# # #
Setting the agenda
Conference opens for registration and networking
Welcome and opening remarks from chair, Carol Matthews
9.45 – 10.15am
Keynote speaker: Lord Kerslake, UK2070 Commission
10.15 – 10.45am
Panel Discussion: Rebalancing the economy
With Henri Murison, Northern Powerhouse Partnership; Christina Gaskell, NP11; Nigel Wilson, Gentoo Group
10.45 – 11.15am
Refreshments, exhibition and networking
11.15 – 12.15pm
Morning breakout sessions
#1 Our Modular Homes in the North
Presenting H4N research on modern methods of construction, and taking a look at the work underway at the Gateshead Innovation Village.
Sponsored by Consortium Procurement Construction
#2 Future Proofing Skills
Taking a look at construction apprenticeships
Sponsored by Efficiency North
12.15 – 1.15pm
Lunch, exhibition and networking
1.15 – 1.30pm
Keynote speaker: Making the case for housing in the North
Kevin Hollinrake MP for Thirsk and Malton and member of the Housing, Communities and Local Government Select Committee
1.30 – 14.15pm
Panel Discussion: The Role of Housing in a Transformed North
With Fiona Howie, Town & Country Planning Association; Paul Dennett, Salford City Mayor; Danielle Gillespie, Homes England; Charlotte Carpenter, Karbon Homes; and Bronwen Rapley, Onward Homes.
14.15 – 15.15pm
Afternoon breakout sessions
#3 The Homes That We Live In
Exploring what needs to be done to regenerate our communities.
Sponsored by Rent Plus
#4 Sustainable Homes in the North
At the time of going to press, the content is still to be confirmed.
15.15 – 15.45pm
Refreshments, exhibition and networking
15.45 – 16.15pm
Keynote speaker: John Cridland, Transport for the North
16.15 – 16.30pm
Closing remarks from Carol Matthews and Nigel Wilson
16.30 – 17.45pm
VIP networking drinks reception
Sponsored by NPA 24:7
This article first appeared in the print edition of Northern Housing magazine #6 October 2019