Nearly 500,000 homes should be built in the West Midlands over the next two decades despite local councils’ fears over the sacrifice of greenbelt land, a leading Midland housing expert said last night.
Mike Brown, chief executive at Bromsgrove and District Housing Trust, said that despite the stalling effect of the credit crunch on the housing market, affordable housing would be snapped up at the first indication of the end of the recession.
At the moment, a family with two children face a 17-year-wait to get such a property in Bromsgrove.
In Birmingham, the 33,000-name backlog is estimated to take 65 years to clear if current trends continue.
A row between the West Midlands Regional Assembly and central government is currently brewing over the number of houses which should be built within the region over the next 17 years.
An independent report by Nathaniel Lichfield and Partners, ordered by the Government Office for the West Midlands, claimed that there was sufficient land in the region for 445,000 homes to be built. But the West Midlands Regional Assembly submitted plans to the government for no more than 365,000 homes to be built before 2026.
Now, Mr Brown says it is time to realise that the housing-market crisis that developed over the past decade will not go away until the right number of affordable homes are built to meet the need of local communities and wider society.
Mr Brown, who has been short-listed for the Inside Housing magazine Chief Executive of the Year award, said: “Just because there is a recession does not mean the underlying problems of the housing market have gone away.
“This won’t make me universally popular, but we really need to see the number of houses being built in the West Midlands heading towards the Nathaniel Lichfield figure.
“I understand that local councils are worried about the infrastructure coping but our first concern should be fulfilling the housing needs of the wider community and society.
“I can guarantee that as soon as we start to come out of the recession, the houses we are building will be snapped up. There is little risk that these new houses will remain empty.”
Bromsgrove and District Housing Trust are currently focusing on increasingly the supply of affordable housing for people getting onto the ladder for the first time.
They are also hoping to expand their stock of two-bedroomed “aspirational” homes for older people who are looking to downsize.
The aim is to free up large homes owned by couples whose children have grown up and moved out of the family home. But planned developments on land such as Perryfields Road, where 150 social houses could be built, are seen to be eating away at the edges of the greenbelt.
David Smith, chairman of the West Midlands Regional Assembly, said: “Firstly, greenbelt land should be a resource of last demand. Secondly, the Nathaniel Lichfield report is absolute rubbish.
“You can’t just do a review, see the number is a bit too low and then add on a bit more. Our research, from 38 local councils, comes up with a number of homes that needs to be built that is right now.
“Trying to predict what we will need in 20 years’ time is nonsense.
“We need to take a sequential view of things and have reviews every five years.”