Building homes above the high street could help fix ‘broken’ housing market, says Sajid Javid
The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government welcomes a new report from the Federation of Master Builders which encourages the building of new homes above the high streets of towns and cities throughout the UK.
Could building on high streets bring some much-needed relief to the UK housing crisis? A new report published this week by the Federation of Master Builders (FMB), ‘Homes on our high streets’, suggests just that.
Speaking to a packed-out audience at this week’s launch event in the House of Lords, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Sajid Javid welcomed the FMB’s ‘timely contribution’ at a time when the UK is attempting to tackle its broken housing market.
The FMB’s ‘Homes on our high streets’ report centres around the proposal that there is “significant untapped potential to create additional homes above shops on or around high streets” throughout the UK. The report builds on previous policies, such as the Living above the shop scheme, and outlines how developing these new properties could help alleviate housing shortages, while also rejuvenating smaller town centres.
The proposals within the report have already gained widespread support from MPs with new research from the FMB showing that 90% of MPs believe that converting empty spaces above shops could help solve the housing crisis.
Sajid Javid welcomed the proposals, which align with current Government efforts to rejuvenate town centres and provide new housing.
“This Government has quite rightly put a lot of time and effort into regenerating our high streets, and strengthening our local economies. That focus has generally been on the retail side of things, but as this report shows, there is no reason why commercial and residential cannot co-exist happily together.”
Drawing on his childhood experience living in Bristol, he said: “I grew up living above the family shop, so I have seen for myself how you can put the theory into practice… ‘Homes on our high streets’ is a timely contribution to the debate and has some very interesting ideas and approaches.”
The Secretary of State said that his whole team would be examining the report to see where the concept could help repair the ‘broken housing market’ in the UK.
Part of the solution, claimed Mr Javid, was by providing extra support to SME builders whose role had been diminished in the years following the financial crash.
“Our Housing White Paper was clear on this. Since the recession, our housing market has been dominated by a handful of very large developers. It used to be the case that some 60% of new homes were delivered by small builders. The figure today is half that, which is a tragedy.”
The Secretary of State pledged to help reverse this trend with the additional £1.5 billion of short-term finance loans made available in the recent budget to help support SME builders.
“Of course, there is still a long way to go, but thanks to your hard work we are heading in the right direction”, he concluded.
Shadow Secretary of State for Housing John Healey also spoke at the report launch, praising the FMB for a successful lobbying campaign ahead of the Budget, securing the additional £1.5bn fund for SME builders.
Mr Healey outlined how the report demonstrated to policy makers and housing experts that it was time to ‘take the high street seriously’ when trying to develop new solutions to housing shortages while also promoting the rejuvenation of town centres.
Brian Berry, Chief Executive of the FMB, said that that the plan could help provide as many as 400,000 new homes.
“This is space just waiting to be turned into residential accommodation. The fact that 90% of MPs of all parties recognise the potential of our existing buildings to help solve the housing crisis means we need to be more imaginative if we are going to build the 300,000 homes a year that the Chancellor pledged in last month’s budget.”