The Public Sector’s Role in Solving the Housing Crisis

I have attached this from NOVUS which gives their views on the vitally important role of Local Authorities and the Public Sector in solving the UK’s housing crisis:

They echo some of the points I made in my post on this site back in June 2014

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Report out on UK Housing, Land, Rent


Reprt from Michael Edwards well worth a read.

Originally posted on Society could do housing and cities better:

The report Prospects for housing, land and rent in UK cities in the coming 4 decades by Michael Edwards is now out. It was commissioned by the Government Office for Science Foresight programme on the future of UK cities. Michael Edwards [gave] a lecture about it at UCL on Wednesday 1 July, a video of which will shortly be available here.  To download the report itself, read on… 

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Deptford tower plan sees increase in flats


Are South East London’s railways up to coping with the new developments planned and already built, and is anyone taking a strategic view.

Other good points in this blog which is worth a read.

Originally posted on fromthemurkydepths:

Greenwich Creekside East

Thanks to Daryl at 853 for alerting me to a planning application before the Greenwich planning board tonight for 249 flats by the Creek in Deptford – an increase of 45 from earlier plans. I havn’t had time to read all the documents, so this post covers some select elements, and the Deptford Dame site has written a fantastic overview here.

The 22-storey tower appears rather bulky and lacking much in the way of elegance. From some angles it appears pretty overwhelming. The developers are certainly trying to maximise massing of the tower with this one. The colour scheme will be interesting – I think this is one that will look better close-up, as the green sections appear to be glazed tiling.

Lewisham council side plan in background - more on that below Lewisham council side plan in background – more on that below

Here’s a quick round up of some details I noticed when browsing the plans. Firstly, the developer is Essential Living

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London’s Mega Residential Towers – a problem waiting to happen.

A little while ago, whilst at a Regeneration Conference, I told a journalist that I could see many of the residential towers built and being built in London; marketed at overseas investors, ending up losing a lot of their value and even ending up as problem places which house people for which these places don’t really work as homes.

This shouldn’t really come as new or revolutionary thinking. Many parts of London have been through cycles of starting off as up market, then being occupied by the poor, and then things going full circle with them now being re-occupied by the wealthy. This may take many years but this churning through different classes of occupiers isn’t anything new so isn’t fantasy thinking, but I wasn’t believed. I pointed out that this downfall of resi-towers designed as investments for overseas investors may take, say, 20 to 30 years, but I could see it happening to those which are not on top-notch prime London sites but are in the more secondary sites which are now being brought forward and developed. The few mega-prime developments are likely to be relatively safe but not many of the others.

My thinking is based on the possibility that it only needs a shock to the home economies of these overseas investors for many of them to need to liquidate their London property assets quickly for values and sales prices to fall. A big overseas crisis could lead to these falls being quite large due to lack of buyers but the sellers needing liquidity very quickly.

Of course these residential towers may be snapped-up by other overseas investors but can we really expect a lot of investors being brave enough to be tempted in on a falling market? And what happens when the distressed overseas investors who can’t sell fail to pay the hefty annual service charges? Court-cases and repossessions?

Eventually someone will hit on the idea of buying up these empty towers at distressed prices and putting in any sort of tenant at any rent in order to get at least some income in. Or the distressed overseas investors (or their creditors who may have a charge on these properties) will rent out individual units to anyone, at any price, for the same reason. The start of the downward spiral.

Anyway, I was thinking long to medium term but last week I saw an example of just the sort of external shock I was thinking of in the Chinese Stock Market. Reading one of the financial papers I saw that The Shanghai Composite has soared 180 per cent in the last 12 months, and that there are so many individual stock-market investors in China who are investing so much that the casinos on Macau are feeling the pinch – people are using the stock-market as a casino in preference to the actual casinos. But this bubble may have now burst – in the last few weeks the Shanghai Composite fell by 22 per cent before bouncing back and ending June with a 6 per cent drop on the month – now tonight I hear that there has been a 30% stock-market crash in China.

The article I read said that the local Chinese securities regulator banned brokers working with ‘umbrella trusts’ which provide investors with margin funding for stock market speculation, and this may have been the reason for the recent falls (done deliberately to stop the bubble getting to out of hand).

Now, what happens (as is possible, if not highly likely) if these ‘umbrella trusts’ lent investors the money for speculation with the latter’s London properties as security? Can you see the picture I am painting and how my ‘vision’ of London’s mega residential towers suddenly becoming a problem could happen? As free markets tend to excess and over-exuberance this scenario will happen eventually. And who is going to have to pick up the pieces?

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Road Projects must consider the environment, and wider social and economic issues

Now that The Highways Agency has bcome Highways England it is interesting to note that tenders from consultants and contractors are being assessed purely on quality terms providing bidders meet the Highways England’s target price.

Their Director of Complex Infrastructure, Chris Taylor, has been quoted as saying: ‘The change from the Highways Agency to Highways England comes with wider responsibilities. We are going to be held to account on how we treat our customers, stakeholders, local communities and the environment. It brings a step change in the whole agenda and this is being reflected in our new wider expectations from contractors on delivery of major projects.’

When awarding contracts for a recent project, Highways England had to remind bidders of these key criteria which contractors had to address, with the need to see more focus from them on skills and economic development within local communities.

This is interesting, as a while back I made more or less the same points to Kent Invicta Chamber of Commerce about the way in which any new Lower Thames Crossing ought to be designed and procured. That is, it must be considered from the earliest moment as much more than just a project which connects point A with point B.

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Something is very wrong when we can’t afford to maintain parks and open spaces

I have just read that New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA)  has a project which aims to help reclaim open spaces around NYCHA developments in the Bronx that have been abandoned and locked up.  They say that because the agency has so much open space and no staff or budget to maintain it, it is creating partnerships with community organizations to put outdoor spaces to use in the forms of youth soccer fields and community gardens and farms.

Creating partnerships with communities and community groups is good, but when one of the richest countries in the world ‘cannot afford’ to fund the maintenance and management of parks and open spaces, with all of the health benefits which they have been proven to provide, I can’t help thinking that something, somewhere,  is very wrong.

And this isn’t only happening in the USA – it is being repeated in the UK.

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What will your powerhouse do for you?


A tiny little warning from someone other than me than devolution may not be all that some are saying it will be.

For example, “There is a lot of talk about regions and cities keeping more of their taxes but if Manchester and Newcastle keep more of their own taxes, then London and the South East will keep more of theirs too. That can only lead to a redistribution of tax away from the poorer regions, unless local taxes are increased to compensate. England tends to get richer the closer you get to London. If these wealthier regions redistribute less of their money, poorer regions will have to make up the shortfall by taxing their residents and businesses at a higher rate.”

If you mention the prospects of more business rates to investors they say ‘ then we will not be investing in your city or region’. When I got those running large investment funds to say this at a recent localism and devolution conferance you could hear the sound of the local authority leaders’ jaws hitting the floor – I would have thought that their senior staff would have at least already mentioned this possibility to them.

Originally posted on Flip Chart Fairy Tales:

The Northern Powerhouse made it into the Queen’s Speech, giving George Osborne a good laugh when Her Majesty mentioned it. The government is pushing ahead with its plans to devolve extensive powers to city regions, starting with Manchester. Devolution to local government, an idea which was loathed by the Thatcher and Major governments, is suddenly the height of fashion and not just in Conservative circles.

The idea gained momentum after the referendum on Scottish independence. It got mixed up with the row about Scottish votes on English laws and became, all at once, an answer to the West Lothian question, a way of stimulating the growth of urban centres outside London, rebalancing the economy, allowing more tax revenues to be raised locally and making services more responsive to local needs. Or something like that. People can project all sorts of things onto what at the moment is still a blank page.

A lot of people seem…

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