Housing crisis looms for East Midlands warns report

Housing Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption A new report warns of a growing housing crisis in the East Midlands

Mention housing policy and expect a blizzard of stats.

The latest report on the country's housing market warns of overcrowding, homelessness, evictions and ever-increasing rents.

It paints a picture that is closer to Dickens than 21st Century Britain.

The numbers are a wake-up call for government ministers and policy makers.

According to the latest findings of the National Housing Federation and Shelter, the number of new homes completed last year was 110,000, that's down nearby 40% on five years ago.

The number of homes deemed as overcrowded is now 655,000. That's up by 130,000 since 2006.

Urban sprawl?

But finding sites for new developments is still proving highly controversial.

Take, for example, the borough of Broxtowe on the edge of suburban Nottingham.

With its population of 110,000, the district has a typical Midlands post-industrial and semi-rural landscape.

Historically, the borough's Green Belt was designated to avoid an urban sprawl between the cities of Nottingham and Derby.

So perhaps, it wasn't such a surprise that plans to build 6,150 new homes in the borough over the next 15 years, stoked up a huge local row.

After months of intensive campaigning, lobbying and angry debate, the council's Labour and Liberal Democrat coalition finally got its new housing targets through a rancorous and stormy council meeting.

The new homes will be built on 97 different sites; some of those include the Green Belt.

Angry residents

It's easy to understand why many local residents have been upset.

One of the sites includes land around the disused Field Farm at Stapleford. It's now designated for 450 new homes.

For generations of locals, it's been a popular rural retreat to walk the dog and enjoy this corner of the countryside.

Browtowe is short of brown field sites. Most have already been built on.

"It's heartbreaking that this Green Belt land is to make way for new homes. We are ripping up the countryside," said Richard MacRae, whose home overlooks Field Farm.

Under the last Labour government, the target for building new homes for the East Midlands was set at 240,000 by 2026.

Greater Nottingham, including Broxtowe, is planning up to 53,000 new homes.

The targets under the Regional Spatial Strategy were scrapped by the coalition government as part of its localism agenda.

Housing challenges

But Labour's Steve Barber, Broxtowe's chair of planning and development control, is adamant that targets are still needed because of a looming housing crisis.

"Without planning ahead to meet the demand, there will be overcrowding and an acute housing shortage in this area. And that will also impact on economic development," he told me.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Finding the building land and homes for a changing and growing population is one of the biggest challenges facing politicians

Those concerns are backed by the statistics of the National Housing Federation.

In the East Midlands, it estimates the region now needs 22,000 new homes each year over the next 20 years to meet future demand.

Last year, 8,790 new homes were built.

It also warns that private rents in the East Midlands will rise by 25% over the next five years, from an average of £361 to £451.

Another statistic: the region's elderly population is predicted to rise by 65% over the next 20 years; the over 85s will increase by 150%.

That's the largest rise of anywhere in the UK.

Finding the building land and homes for a changing and growing population is one of the biggest challenges facing our politicians, both locally and nationally.