Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Graham Jones writes for Left Foot Forward

Axing of housing regeneration scheme could set communities back a decade.

Graham Jones MP (Labour, Hyndburn) writes for Left Foot Forward

At the end of this month the Housing Market Renewal programme (HMR) introduced back in 2002 under the previous Labour government, will come to an end; so, what is HMR? Housing Market Renewal (HMR) Pathfinders have operated since 2002 in areas of low housing demand.

They were introduced under the previous Labour government with the aim of rebuilding housing markets and communities in parts of the North and the Midlands where demand for housing is relatively weak – areas which have seen a significant decline in population, dereliction, poor services and poor social conditions.

The intention of the strategy was to renew failing housing markets and reconnect them to regional markets, to improve neighbourhoods and to encourage people to live and work in these areas.

HMR operated in several key areas of significant deprivation:

• Birmingham/Sandwell;
• East Lancashire;
• Hull and East Riding;
• Manchester/Salford;
• Merseyside;
• Newcastle/Gateshead;
• North Staffordshire;
• Oldham/Rochdale;
• South Yorkshire;
• West Yorkshire;
• West Cumbria; and
• Tees Valley.

The Government has claimed of the HMR scheme:

“There was something wrong with that programme and there is now an enormous funding problem. It will be for the local community and local authority to get together with the local enterprise partnership and pull together the various funding streams” – January 17th 2011

However a report (pdf) by the Audit Commission last week found that the Housing Market Renewal programme has made a substantial contribution to improving housing and economic circumstances in some of the country’s most deprived areas.

The report found that:

• £2.2 billion was invested in the Housing Market Renewal (HMR) programme since 2002 with on average around £115 being spent per resident per year;

• Every £1 of HMR investment attracted an additional £0.50 of investment from the private sector and £0.68 of public investment;

• In Newcastle Gateshead alone, £60 million of HMR funds, together with council and HCA contributions, is set to secure £400 million in private investment and deliver more than 4,000 new homes.

The report estimates that by the time the programme ends at the end of this month the HMR programme will have:

• Generated some £5.8 billion of economic activity across the economy;

• Created some 19,000 jobs in construction and related industries; and

• Helped maintain more than 2,600 jobs in the construction industry each year.

The report concludes:


“HMR areas need continuing investment. The communities in these deprived areas will still need support, and the task of regenerating housing markets will continue.”

Adding:

“[There is a need to] ensure that promises made to communities are met and to reduce the risk of previous investments being undermined by leaving a legacy of uncompleted projects.”

Housing Market Renewal saw government funding stimulate the housing market in the country’s most deprived communities which in turn leveraged millions of pounds in private sector investment. The programme had involvement from the local communities it served and was finally starting to give hope to those living in these poor conditions.

Eight years into the scheme and we were within touching distance of changing these communities for the better and revitalising the housing market; now we could see communities slipping back by a decade and billions of pounds of taxpayers’ money being simply thrown away.