Monday, 13 February 2012

Radio 5 Live Investigates 'Housing Market Renewal'. A poor insight.

Did anyone else think like me, last night R5L investigates Housing Market Renewal was uninformed opinion? Mr Nevin, the most articulate and a HMR proponent did well to get around the barrage of uninformed questions which seemed to be just about emotion.

Come on the BBC! I am an avid supporter but this was dumbed down journalism. The first 15 minutes was spent listening to ordinary families trapped in ghetto streets half way through regeneration who had little or no knowledge of HMR or the consequences of its early demise. Those desperate people would have been far better served if they could have heard a full 30 minute discussion on the history of housing regeneration, the problems in the first place and the successes and failings of the HMR programme.

There are 34,000 households in Hyndburn and 36,500 properties. There are 2400 empties. One key problem problem is depopulation. Another is low income home owners in poor areas who were never able to afford the upkeep of expensive to maintain Victorian homes over past decades. The BBC should have been questioning the value of home ownership, particularly in older housing. The damp north west climate. That there is significant fuel poverty (with hypothermia rates amongst elderly rising) in solid wall housing and the replacement new builds are far superior for open space, motor vehicles, build design and energy efficiency. People prefer them according to the market mechanism.

The lack of open space and poor recreational/health figures for these areas was not mentioned. These properties are often in dense areas with no open spaces. Nor the fact that people demanded action before the programme began and every neighbourhood had a full consultation.

The debate did not discuss hundreds of people trapped in non-HMR blighted streets where occupancy is rates are low and abandonment rates high. Or what other circumstances add to the decline such as private landlords.

Neither did it highlight the heat map which shows the government sucking money out of these areas and giving it the south via the formula grant, the early ending of HMR funding, the New Hones Bonus and localisation of business rates.

Neither did it discuss the legal challenges that have put post HMR wash up schemes on financial hold.

Hyndburn is not involved in demolition. It is doing a grand designs refurbishment of 90 properties and the money has now been stopped jeopardising a £7m private investment.

I would be the first to say in Hyndburn we got HMR wrong. We did. Keep saying it was a Labour Government when in fact it was also predominately Liberal and Conservative Council's who were designing the local schemes is political point scoring.

In Hyndburn we should not have focussed on like for like full refurbishments (at £55k per per property). Wholesale demolition because the private sector (developers) wanted large land assembly. Golden 'cash' give a ways to people unwilling to move. We should have focused on 2 into 1's to reduce stock numbers. Wholesale aquisition to cut design and refurbishment costs. Leveraging in home owner equity on facelifts (£11k) and refurbishments to extend the scheme.

A very poor programme. Disappointed.