The building of new homes has been a priority for successive governments for decades now, but the delivery of these new homes nationwide has been spotty at best. With councils placing varying degrees of emphasis on home building plans and the economic crash placing a significant strain on budgets, however, it’s a struggle which can be empathised with.
Leeds, however, has long had a reputation for fostering the development of new housing plans and a new analysis of official Government data has confirmed those suspicions.
Leeds, according to the data, is behind only Tower Hamlets and Cornwall in the number of homes it has built on average in each year since the economic downturn, meeting 86% of the predicted demand for 2026.
Despite the significant home building endeavours of the council, the numbers indicate that long-term demand won’t be met, with the city having the fourth highest long-term annual need outside London, the Government suggest. The council, meanwhile estimate that it’s actually the second highest need in the country.
The analysis comes from the BBC’s Shared Data Unit and forms part of a comprehensive regional analysis of house building rates compared to local estimates of need. It found that more than half of English areas have not yet returned to supplying new homes at the same rates they were before the crash.
In 2016-17 (the last full year of data for overall home supply rates) England saw 217,000 new homes built – a five year high. However, it fell dramatically short of the Government’s own target of 300,000 per year, a figure which some experts believe should be around 340,000 per year.
Here in Leeds, much of the discourse around new housing is based around a disagreement on housing targets, with some in the council favouring a plan to build 70,000 new homes by 2028 and others suggesting that the number need not be so high and that the green belt should be protected.
It’s a debate which has raged for well over twelve months and Leeds City Council chief Richard Lewis is firmly in the former camp, saying: “I think we need to sweep away the current planning system and come up with something that is radically different that enables people to have a democratic input,”
“Secondly, take away the cap on local authorities’ borrowing. Enable them to build.”
“We just get wrapped up in repeating an argument that’s been going on ever since the green belt was introduced.
“Well, Leeds has built on so much green land - not green belt always - over the last 80 years, and Leeds has probably tripled the size that it was back then.
“We all buy into the lie that the green belt was ever intended to stop development. It wasn’t. It was to control urban sprawl. It wasn’t to control the building of new houses on greenfield sites.”
Andrew Carter, leader of the Conservative opposition group, however, takes a different tack, suggesting that: “Greenbelt is hugely important and valued by communities across the city. But once it’s gone, it’s gone for good.”
He also suggests that the true housing need of the city amounts of 42,384, indicating that the city must build 2,649 homes per year over the plan period. The analysis found that the city had been building 2,230 homes per year over the last decade.