The Building Back Britain Commission has published its first report setting out the need for a new national housing strategy to deliver the government’s levelling up agenda.

The report argues that the government’s mission to level up Britain will only be successfully completed by putting housing at the heart of those plans and that housing strategy and levelling up must be aligned to get the right homes built in the right places.

The Commission considers that the current housing strategy, including the use of the standard method for assessing local housing need, is based on past growth trends and is not dynamic enough to meet future demands.

For levelling up to work the report suggests that sustainable, high productivity employment is needed in disadvantaged areas alongside suitable housing for large numbers of people moving to take up jobs.

The report presents a five-point plan for ‘Building Back Britain’;

  • a new housing delivery strategy to take account of a ‘levelling up’ model of housing need;
  • tacking skills shortages by creating construction clusters in every part of Great Britain by 2030;
  • setting explicit targets for the delivery of Modern Methods of Construction (MMC) housing – providing 75,000 MMC homes a year by 2030;
  • making all new homes operational net zero from 2030 with the construction industry’s plans to be carbon neutral in construction accelerated;
  • greater tax incentives to encourage investment in carbon zero MMC factories.

The ‘Levelling Up’ Model of Housing Need

The commission recommends that a new approach to housing need should be developed which should targets housing provision towards the 93 local authorities identified as priority areas for levelling up in the Government’s Levelling up Fund prospectus.

The commissions proposed approach aims to level up sub-par employment rates locally towards the 76% national level with the creation of good jobs that in turn will create additional housing need.

The additional people that would need to be employed in the priority areas to level up local employment rates is calculated on two scenarios – scenario 1 100% migration into the local authority area and scenario 2 50% migration and 50% getting local unemployed into work.

To establish the additional housing required, a standardised 0.75 local housing need requirement per additional job created is then applied.

For the 93 local authority areas identified as requiring levelling up, the new approach would result in between 11,855 and 44,631 annual net additions over a 30-year period compared with the standard method, depending on the scenario chosen.

The report indicates that those authorities that have the greatest annual net additions under this new approach would be Birmingham, followed by Manchester, Bradford, Liverpool, County Durham and then Barking and Dagenham.

The 93 local authorities identified as priority areas are generally concentrated in the North-West, North East and Yorkshire and Humber regions but also include local authorities in the East and West Midlands and in the South East.

Building Back Britain Commission Report - Number of 'Priority' Local Authorities

Under scenario 2, which appears the most realistic of the scenarios, the annual additional housing requirement would increase by up to 2,900 homes in the West Midlands, 2,800 in the north-west, 1,800 in the north-east, 1,170 in the East Midlands and 1,088 in Yorkshire and Humber.

The report presents some interesting conclusions and recommendations on the levelling up agenda and the need for a new housing strategy to help deliver the government’s levelling up aspirations.

If new employment opportunities are to be directed towards the priority areas, additional housing will be required to support those growth aspirations.

Whilst the report suggests a positive step forward in housing growth it does not present the whole picture, only providing information on the effect of the suggested revised housing strategy for the 93 local authority priority areas. It remains to be seen what the effect would be on other local authority areas and whether Boris Johnson’s recent statement that the levelling up agenda is a “win win” and not a “jam-spreading operation” and would not be to the detriment of London and the South can be delivered under the suggested new approach. There remain critical housing needs, including issues of affordability across the country and any new approach to a housing strategy will need to make provision for these needs.

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