It is now eight years since the arrival of the city living phenomenon in Birmingham, and with the expectation that within two years more than 10,000 units will have been developed across the city centre, new research from property firm Drivers Jonas highlights the need for substantially improved city infrastructure to deliver a 'true urban renaissance'.
The 2005 Crane Survey, undertaken annually by DJ, shows an increase this year in housing-led schemes across the city, in part due to lengthy delivery timescales.
Of 17 active construction sites in the city centre, 13 are predominantly residential projects having a small mixed use element.
These 13 will contribute in excess of 3,900 units to the overall stock - the majority of which, when phasing is taken into account, will come to the market in the next two to three years.
Jill Astley, Associate at DJ, said: "There has been a certain level of nervousness in the marketplace during the last year, but a number of trends have emerged as developers adapt to requirements.
"This year's Crane Survey records greater construction activity as new and phased schemes both come forward, but major challenges now include affordability and the development of a more sustainable community with an increase in lifestyle provisions such as doctors, dentists, food stores and outlets as well as well-managed and maintained public space."
Volume housebuilders make up the majority of new entrants to on-site activity, which has shifted eastwards from the Brindleyplace-Sheepcote Street hotspot.
Interest has migrated around the south of the city from Park Central through to Southside, the Markets' Quarter and Eastside, while the Jewellery Quarter also remains an active area of development.
Five of the eight residential schemes that are new to the cityscape in 2005 average 180 units each and only two have less than 100 apartments. Nearly all are from big name residential developers. The size of these schemes suggests that these opportunities were bought historically as developments of this magnitude take some time to bring forward.
Jill Astley added: "Unit sizes are consistently reducing and more studio and one bedroomed apartments feature on price lists.
"This optimises the price per square foot for developers, which averages around £300 psf, and provides a cheaper entry level into the market, but consequently allows for little variation in layout and style.
"The survey shows that residential development is continuing in Birmingham with barely a slowdown in pace despite reported weaker market conditions in the general residential sector.
"Provided schemes adapt to and take account of overall city infrastructure, car parking provision and affordability, then developers should continue to succeed with future schemes.
"To encourage more owner occupiers to buy in the city and secure the success of sustainable city living in the longterm, there needs to be a balance of everyday amenities including shopping and healthcare facilities, in addition to the vibrant city nightlife."
As the city centre spreads and residential activity extends further southwards and eastwards, the provision of an efficient mode of public transport becomes of greater importance.
Car parking is on the increase within schemes as the lack of public transport in peripheral areas, coupled with further distances to travel to and from the city centre, means that cars are still the preferred mode of transport for most city dwellers, particularly at weekends when public transport is at a reduced service level. Simply permitting a minimal parking option is no longer a viable trend.
Jill Astley said: "The debate on the affordability of city centre living continues.
"Of all the residential developments in the city centre, totalling around 7,000 new units to date, only a small proportion is in the affordable sector operated by Registered Social Landlords (RSLs), many on a shared equity basis.
" This was in order to encourage private buyers into the city and at the inception of city living there was doubt as to how far the market could progress, however, as the concept has taken hold, values have grown considerably.
"Affordability or price is a function of supply and demand, and with investor demand soaking up a large proportion of supply in recent years, this has helped to push prices beyond the means of many who would happily be a city dweller given the chance."
Housing associations are now taking an increasingly active approach and are considering buying sites outright for wholesale development.
This perhaps reflects lower interest from the private market in lower value locations, but highlights a more informed view from housing associations, keen to take advantage of city centre opportunities.