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Infrastructure must come ahead of new homes building, summit tells Treasury

The 2016 Housing Summit was organised by the South East Midlands Local Enterprise Partnership and attracted over 170 guests from across the country to stadiummk.

Speakers included John Healey MP, Labour’s shadow minister for housing, and senior members of the Department for Communities and Local Government and the Homes and Communities Agency.

The government aims to deliver 200,000 new homes a year, a figure which includes 400,000 new affordable homes by 2020.

In the South East Midlands – an area which covers Aylesbury, Banbury, Bedford, Bicester, Daventry, Kettering, Leighton Buzzard, Luton, Milton Keynes and Northampton – at least 127,000 new homes are planned by 2025/26 and local plans mean this is likely to increase to over 135,000.

SEMLEP chair Dr Ann Limb said: “The main challenge we face is funding the infrastructure new homes require – the roads, schools, utilities and community and leisure facilities.

“The income from new homes to fund infrastructure comes only once a house is built and we are now calling on the Treasury to provide help to fund infrastructure up front, which can then be paid back when homes are built.”

Previous tariff arrangements in Milton Keynes provided the ability to forward fund infrastructure. “But these are no longer permitted,” said Dr Limb “hence our call for support from central government.”

Milton Keynes Council leader Cllr Pete Marland described the South East Midlands as “the housing growth engine of the UK”.

He added: “The South East Midlands has consistently delivered more new homes than anywhere else over a sustained period. However we are facing a real challenge in ensuring we continue to make sure that everyone has a home to rent or buy at a price they can afford but also deliver the infrastructure that makes a community, schools, GPs services, play areas and community space.

“We have always worked positively with developers and landowners to achieve this, and this SEMLEP Housing Summit is a great example of how we are trying to work constructively to build the homes we need to tackle the housing crisis.”

Housing association The Orbit Group joined the panel of speakers, with its chief executive Paul Tennant talking to delegates about the growing demand for shared ownership homes.

Mr Tennant said: “The government announced a clear intention to scale-up the delivery of shared ownership homes in its Autumn Statement. We are seeing a growing demand for this tenure, with our sales of shared ownership homes doubling this year, and we expect to see the same next year.

“However, we need to ensure we are continuing to build homes across a range of tenures to provide a truly affordable housing journey for our customers now and in the future.”

A panel discussion was chaired by RICS head of policy Jeremy Blackburn. He said: “Housing and home ownership are now at the very top of the political agenda in a way that many of us will not have seen in generations. The last government and this one have been surprisingly interventionist in order to drive construction of new homes, mostly however from the demand side.

“So far we have not seen a sufficient answer for those who have to rent, whether through choice or economics; the answer to generation rent cannot be solely to buy, no matter what the risks.”

SEMLEP’s Housing Summit was sponsored by NatWest, which lends £4.5 billion to housebuilders and £10 million to the affordable housing sector through housing associations.

The bank’s regional managing director Paul Eyre told delegates: “NatWest’s support for the housing market is strong.  In addition to that we have announced a desire to lend £1billion to the private rental sector, so we are delighted to have supported SEMLEP’s Housing Summit and to have helped stimulate debate.” 

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