A regeneration body is throwing down the gauntlet to local authorities in the West Midlands to provide land for new-style communities being billed as the villages of the future.
Jackie Sadek, chief executive of UK Generation, the successor body to the British Urban Regeneration Association, issued the challenge to a gathering of property industry professionals hosted by Savills and Harvey Ingram at the Midlands launch of the organisation’s drive to build 20,000 new homes nationwide by 2020.
Ms Sadek said the region was “sex on a stick” when it came to potential locations for UK Regeneration’s self-sufficient communities that combine residential and retail in mixed use schemes.
Described as “campuses”, the new communities will only offer rented accommodation and will also be characterised by a mix of local traders and national chains when it comes to their retail offering.
Ms Sadek said the whole region is now top of UK Regeneration’s hit list, with money already in place to get the ball rolling courtesy of Barclays Capital.
The downside for local authorities, or other landowners who might be interested, is that UK Regeneration wants land at what Ms Sadek admits is “a knockdown price,” with payment deferred until the schemes are completed five years down the line.
But she believes the potential returns are huge and that those authorities who sign up will reap the benefits in the long term.
“I want land at a knockdown price but I also I want a positive partnership approach,” said Ms Sadek. “Potential returns are the key financially. If they do it quickly they get the New Homes Bonus, the payment of rates from the community and hopefully, if we get it right, they get a commercially active new section of their population spending money in their town and city centres. What’s not to like?”
She added: “They are giving something up, certainly in the short term. But if the local authority has a bit of vision and is looking for an investment in the longer term the financial returns might be better and they will end up with a better town centre. It is about place-making rather than getting the best price.”
Ms Sadek, whose passion for regeneration has developed over a 20-year career is keen to sign up partners with the same enthusiasm and energy to get the job done.
“We want politicians with vision and officers with a can-do attitude who get out of bed in the morning and feel they want to get something done,” she said.
With personal experience of regeneration in the Midlands having been involved in the transformation of Brierley Hill, Ms Sadek also stressed the whole of the region is “up for grabs”.
“I have a residual and massive affection for the Black Country because I believe it is it is hugely under-exploited,” she said. “But the bank is also keen for me to look at areas like Birmingham city centre, Coventry and Solihull.”
Interested parties are being invited to start by examining UK Regeneration’s framing document, which has nine criteria. The first is size and sites need to be five acres or more and have no contamination issues.
Authorities also need to accept a deferral of payment for five years, though the site value would be agreed at the outset. They also need to be able to demonstrate regeneration benefits and the site must be in the right location.
There also needs to be flexibility, for instance around the issue of affordable housing, and a commitment to the model of 70 per cent residential use that is all privately rented.
In addition the land needs to be owned by the authorities or co-operative third parties willing to participate. Also required is a commitment to simplicity throughout the planning process and any other use of the site needs to be complementary.
However, UK Regeneration says it will be flexible to a degree and that local authorities who feel they meet as many as six of the nine criteria are being urged to talk to them.
As to why the schemes do not offer home ownership, Ms Sadek said it is partly in response to the increasing difficulty people experience getting onto the housing ladder, combined with a genuine belief that attitudes to home ownership are changing, particularly among 20 to 40-year-olds. She also believes it represents an attractive option for investors and offers an alternative to conventional approaches that combine homes for sale with social housing.
“The banks are very keen to find new things to lend against that aren’t protected with mortgages,” she said.