West Midlands first to strike housing deal with government

A £350 million funding deal with councils in the West Midlands will help deliver 215,000 homes in the city-region by 2031, chancellor Philip Hammond said yesterday.

Chancellor Philip Hammond
Chancellor Philip Hammond

The West Midlands Housing Deal includes approval for the region’s bid for £250 million from the government’s Housing Infrastructure Fund (HIF).

According to the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA), the deal will increase delivery in the region to nearly 16,000 homes a year, up from an average of 10,000 over the past three years.

In his Spring Statement, Hammond said that ministers are working with another 44 councils nationally bidding for a share of the £4.1 billion currently available under the HIF.

Announcements on further deals with councils that are delivering "above their local housing need" will follow in the next few days, the chancellor signalled.

He told the Commons that an investment programme of at least £44 billion over the next five years announced in last year’s Autumn Budget will put the government on track to raise the supply of homes to 300,000 a year on average by the mid 2020s.

Hammond said the government is "making progress" on plans for a major development programme based on the Oxford-Milton Keynes-Cambridge corridor.

He said the Housing Growth Partnership, which provides financial support for small housebuilders, will be more than doubled to £220 million and that London will receive £1.67 billion to start building a further 26,000 affordable homes by the end of 2021/22.

West Midlands mayor Andy Street said it was "fantastic news" that the chancellor had signed off the housing deal, which he said would focus on remediation of brownfield sites.

The deal includes £143 million towards regeneration of the Perry Barr area in north Birmingham, which will host the athletes' village for the 2022 Commonwealth Games. It will also support development on priority sites in Ladywood, Smethwick, Coventry and Balsall Common.

It will also support a £100 million land remediation fund to buy and clean up land around priority sites focused on the Walsall to Wolverhampton corridor, which are expected to deliver at least 8,000 homes

The deal includes a government commitment to working with housing associations on new ways to finance and build affordable housing and a joint delivery team with government agency Homes England to create a "pipeline" of high-priority development sites.

"This funding will see tens of millions of pounds invested to remediate brownfield sites, of which our region has many, to build homes and install the infrastructure required to accommodate growth, helping to relieve pressure on our green belt," said Street.

Walsall Council leader Sean Coughlan, the WMCA’s lead on housing and land, said: "This deal will give us more tools to work with our partners and use innovative techniques to ensure delivery. It will regenerate derelict brownfield land first, as set out in our local development plans."

Elsewhere in the Spring Statement, the chancellor announced that city-regions across England can now bid for funding from the £1.7 billion Transforming Cities Fund.

The fund, announced in the 2017 Budget, is intended to support new local transport links, "particularly for those struggling to travel between city centres and suburban areas", a statement from the Department for Transport said. 

The DfT added that up to ten English city-regions will be selected to work with it to "co-develop a strong package of proposals" focusing on "improving public and sustainable transport links to centres of employment and driving up productivity". More details on the fund can be found here. 

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