FEATURE: Calls for property market overhaul if Sheffield is to avoid housing crisis
Sheffield is facing a major housing crisis over the next decade unless there are widespread changes to the property market.
That is the stark picture painted by an industry expert who predicted the city region will have no chance of meeting demand to build more than 50, 000 new homes over the next decade if the sector remains in its current state.
An estate agent, MP, charity and housing associations all called for urgent action to get the housing market moving again – otherwise the supply will simply not meet the demand.
Reporter Lee Peace spoke to those involved to gain an insight into the challenges facing the city's housing sector.
Central government must introduce a raft of changes if the Sheffield City Region is to have any chance of building more than 50, 000 new homes over the next decade to meet demand, housing associations have warned.
Homes for the North, an alliance of the 19 largest housing associations across the north of England, commissioned a study by housing research specialists Lichfield which showed the Steel City region will need at least 5, 395 homes built per annum for the next 10 years.
The report said as much as 70 per cent of this housing need is concentrated around urban areas and there is a particular shortage of rental homes to meet the needs of a booming number of graduates and younger working families.
Homes for the North is now calling for the Government to:-
*Adopt a regional housebuilding target to build more than 500, 000 homes across the north over 10 years
*Allocate more funds from the £3 billion Home Building Fund to the north to help speed up house building, and
*Create 'combined authorities' across regions who can work together more closely to identify potential housing development sites.
Mark Henderson, chairman of Homes for the North, said: “We need a more diverse market.
“Providers like us could double the amount we build if only government released more public land for development and provided more certainty over future housing funding. “
In a wider sense, the figures revealed the shortfall in the north makes up 29 per cent of the country's entire projected housing need.
Mr Henderson suggested too much debate has centred on a housing shortage in the capital and Whitehall now needs to turn its attention to supporting the north.
He said: “Over the past decade 300, 000 highly skilled workers have left the north.
“The government urgently need to stem this ‘brain drain’ to ensure our regional economies have the ability to flourish and compete with London."
Sajid Javid, the secretary of state for communities and local government, told last year's Conservative party conference that the government had already embarked on 'the largest government-backed house building programme since the 1970s' in response to growing population.
The MP said: “Our £3bn Home Building Fund is helping to build thousands of high quality rented homes so tenants in the north and across the UK have greater choice and our flexible £7.1 billion Affordable Homes Programme is supporting regions around the country to achieve their housing ambitions.
“Through this package of measures we’re helping to fix the broken housing market and boost growth across the north.”
Under-staffed planning departments, delays in getting housing projects off the ground and a lack of available land to build on are holding up Sheffield's housing market – at a time when it really needs to get moving.
That's the view of Linda Crapper, director of land and new homes at Saxton Mee estate agents, who believes only a fraction of the 50, 000 homes needed across the Sheffield City Region will be built if things stay as they are.
She said: "The situation is outrageous.
“There should really be a council taskforce to tackle this. If council's don't change things then they will be lucky to build 10, 000 homes - never mind 50, 000."
Ms Crapper blamed cutbacks for leaving planning departments "under-staffed", meaning potential housing developments are continually being deferred.
She said: "It takes three or four times longer than it should to get housing schemes over the line.
“There is one in Deepcar that I sold about 10 years ago and I still don't think it has got planning permission. The person I used to deal with at the company has actually now retired it has taken so long.
"There is a backlog of cases and they need more staff."
She claimed more vacant industrial sites and ex-council estate land should also be allocated for developers to build housing.
In addition, Ms Crapper argued some land owners should also be selling up to pave the way for housing schemes on the vacant land.
She said: "There is plenty of empty land in S5 where council houses have been knocked down and are now empty.
“They should be building houses on here, and if the council can't afford to they should sell it, rather than just leaving it."
She put the increase in demand down to more and more people wanting newly built properties.
"There has been an increase in demand for new builds rather than moving into older properties. This is because they are more energy efficient so bills are cheaper."
Sheffield Council admitted extra resources have been allocated to the planning department to meet soaring demand.
But the authority was keen to point out that targets are being met – and pointed to a number of recently approved new housing developments that are helping to get the market moving.
Councillor Ben Curran, cabinet member for planning and development, said: "Our current house building target is for 1, 425 new homes per year to be built across the city. We have exceeded this target in each of the last three years.
“We aren't just leaving this to private developers. We are developing brownfield sites through the Sheffield Housing Company and have pledged to create 1, 000 new council properties.
“These include the first council houses built in this city for a generation. These are clear examples of our ambitions for good quality, affordable homes in the city.”
He added: “The council works closely with developers to ensure our housing target is met and extra resource has been allocated to the planning department to match the increasing demand as development soars in the city.
“We aim to turn a planning application around within government target periods - based on eight, 13 or 16 weeks depending on the scale of the schemes - and we often exceed that target.
“The recent planning application for new Boeing factory was dealt with in only six weeks."
Two major developments were approved last week that will provide homes for hundreds of people in Sheffield over the next few years.
The first is in East Bank Road, Norfolk Park, where the old East Hill primary and secondary schools once stood, will see 77 three and four bedroom homes built by Sigma Capital Group and Sheffield Housing Company.
And in Halfway, Taylor Wimpey got the go ahead to build 207 homes next to the Arnold Laver building off Oxclose Park Road.
Planning officers said the proposals will 'contributing towards delivering the council’s housing targets’.