Green Field or Brown Field?
Thatched cottages, immaculate gardens, pubs run by the same family for generations, vibrant market towns … of course the countryside is this and indeed much more besides. But it also hides its very own housing crisis.
In market towns, rural villages, and county cities there’s as much pressure on housing as the urban environment. Add in demand vastly outstripping supply and prices vastly outstripping wages (and not just 8 times average salary but 16), plus a dearth of development and it’s an intractable problem to rival London’s more visible version of ‘crisis’.
Although the Housing White paper ducked the big issue of Green Belt, all is not lost. The announcements on more flexibility of tenure, local council development targets and Brownfield land all offer opportunities which housing associations are ideally placed to take in tackling rural housing need.
Tucked within many towns and villages are the smaller, more complex brownfield sites which associations are used to developing. Mixed light industrial has coexisted with farming and housing for decades. We have the product mix to meet a range of budgets and needs, and the more flexible business model to take on lower returns by blending capital and with long-term revenue.
We also have deep roots and long-term commitments to the communities where we work, as well as long-standing local authority relationships which can help to nudge challenging schemes over the line.
Where others fear to tread, we tend to get stuck in and try to make it work. In terms of unlocking these smaller, more difficult sites, the Homes & Communities Agency has a key role to play.
Examples such as Brick Kiln Street in Evesham, Back Dog Way in Gloucester city centre and Paul Street (a former Spectacle factory) are great examples of rural brownfield sites which would not work for private developers – but have got away to provide homes to buy, rent and part-own thanks to local authority backing and HCA support.
There isn’t a single simple solution to the housing crisis – and the reality is that brownfield land is as much a part of the solution outside the urban as it is within.