Urban Jungle: Why affordable and ecologically friendly developments need to be at the heart of Manchester’s regenerationThursday, 23rd November 2023
It’s fair to say that Manchester has been experiencing a building boom in recent years and nowhere is that more evident than the plethora of shiny skyscrapers springing up across our favourite city’s skyline.
Many once deprived areas of the city have also benefited from an urban regeneration facelift with new homes, businesses, bars and shops replacing crumbling architecture and boarded up buildings, breathing new life into forgotten streets.
But, how do we ensure everyone in our communities reaps the benefit of Manchester’s redevelopment? Alex Bodie, Director of Community Housing and Healthcare, and Danielle Copsey, Corporate Relationship Manager for the North West, from Together, discussed the issues and opportunities of social housing, affordable properties and ecologically friendly development.
What do you think of the urban regeneration efforts in Manchester?
Danielle: I think it’s great for Manchester. There’s places that haven’t had any money put into them for decades now getting investment, encouraging businesses and people to move into the area. This all creates jobs and money going into the local economy.
Alex: I absolutely agree, and, hopefully, we will start to see some of that money trickle down into funding schemes that help members of our community that are struggling. For example, we’ve got a real problem right now, across the entire UK, where the demand for affordable housing and community housing is far outweighing the supply, and the waiting list is only getting longer year on year. Urban regeneration shouldn’t be solely judged on the new buildings we see but the effect they have on the communities that live there.
Alex Bodie, Director of Community Housing & Healthcare – Together
Why do you think we are seeing these issues?
Alex: Right to Buy has been hugely successful, and quite rightly so, as it’s allowed people that were in social housing the opportunity to own. The problem with this has been that those ex-council houses haven’t been replaced as promised, leading to fewer affordable homes being available. Additionally, affordable home quotas on new housing developments are often being missed.
Danielle: Everything comes down to cost at the end of the day. If you look at council budgets, they are already being squeezed. Building is a costly endeavour, set over years, and councils can see other areas to spend on that look like quicker wins. There’s other factors that have also contributed including strict planning regulations and a perceived lack of available land to develop.
Alex: For me, we need to encourage the government to incentivise the building of quality, cost-effective and energy efficient homes, both for sale at an affordable price and to be used for social purposes. I think this comes in the form of greater subsidies in the sector, adding additional funding to schemes like the Affordable Homes Programme.
Danielle: You make a great point about energy efficiency, Alex. We’ve seen a massive increase in new business surrounding sustainability and social housing at Together, especially with the renewed focus surrounding EPC requirements. Some landlords are reluctant to spend on upgrading existing properties but doing so will add value to their portfolio, help to cut energy costs for their tenants, and contribute to a greener environment.
Danielle Copsey, Corporate Relationship Manager – Together
What is being done now to help with these issues?
Alex: It’s encouraging to see that Manchester City Council recently announced a £47m capital funding package designed to make significant improvements to existing social housing between 2024 to 2026, with more than 2,000 homes across the city in line for investment. We need to replicate that commitment when looking to create new housing.
Danielle: In terms of sustainability, the Brownfield Land Release fund has been great at encouraging councils to fix up derelict council-owned sites, ready for development. In 2022, North West councils secured nearly £5m from a share of £35m available to them from the fund. The programme has already created over 17,000 homes and over 56,000 jobs nationwide, with an additional £65m set to be released in a second round.
Alex: Building on once derelict land is a great alternative to developing on a green site as the infrastructure, such as electricity, water and plumbing, is already there, making it a more attractive proposition for developers. Adding incentives that make building social housing on these sites more profitable will not only benefit developers and landlords, but also the local communities that have more affordable properties in their area.
We’ve worked with some amazing developers over the past few years that have converted disused areas and buildings, including old army barracks, bowling greens and churches, into homes and spaces that benefit the local communities. There is a severe shortage of good quality supported living in the North West, and across the UK, and developments like these will allow their new tenants to receive the care and support they need while living independent lives. That’s the type of urban regeneration we can all get behind.
Together, established in 1974, is a Cheadle-based specialist property finance lender. Using a common-sense approach to lending, Together has helped a wide range of people, businesses and industry professionals realise their property ambitions.