By 2030, the Northern Powerhouse will have a shortage of 86,220 homes

Traditional terraced housing in Manchester's Moss Side district. Image: Getty.

When people talk about the housing crisis, they are generally thinking about London and the South East – but northern cities are facing a significant housing shortage too.

Housebuilding rates dropping by 28 per cent over the last decade. While building slows, foreign investment into Northern Powerhouse cities into city centre property purchases is booming, creating concerns about a property bubble that may bring the problems of London to Manchester. And, across the north, regeneration efforts to make better use of existing housing stockhave stalled.

What’s more, the ratio of housing costs to income – the key measure of affordability – in the north is getting closer to that in the south. There’s now only a two percentage point gap between the North West and the South East. In other words, although there is still a big difference in absolute house prices between the North and South, the amount people are spending on housing as a proportion of their income is not that different.

The Northern Powerhouse must therefore accelerate housing delivery to meet local needs, make best use of inward investment opportunities, and make meaningful progress on regeneration. That’s why ResPublica has this week published a manifesto that sets out how the North’s housing challenges can be met.

Our inability to deal with the London housing crisis is holding back productivity and social mobility. People are unable to find suitable homes in the centre of the capital, diminishing the ability of young people to access high wage employment , and depriving high growth and strategically important sectors – such as tech, banking and construction – access to a greater pool of talent.

Fewer than one in fifteen (6 per cent) of new graduates who move to London come from the most disadvantaged fifth of UK local authorities. And this is an intractable problem: the housing shortage is so large that even accelerating housing delivery in London and its suburbs will make only a small difference in the short-term.

We must not let the same thing happen in Manchester or the north.

So far, housing and planning have been considered matters for city devolution policies; they’ve not been considered as a part of the wider Northern Powerhouse agenda, which is led by central government. But city regions across the north face similar issues that can best be addressed through a whole region approach.

Indeed, estimates suggest Greater Manchester’s housing shortage is putting £4.6bn of investment at risk. If the Northern Powerhouse is to bring about sustainable and inclusive growth, it must include comprehensive strategic plans for housing that meet current and projected housing needs across all tenures. Now is the time to be thinking about this.

The northern way

The good news is that the housing shortage in the north is not insurmountable. But the shortfall will reach 86,220 homes in the major five city regions – Manchester, Liverpool, Newcastle, Sheffield and Leeds – by 2030.

The next step for devolution could be to call for local retention of stamp duty receipts to fund housebuilding to close the gap: our projections suggest this could help fund 53,175 homes in that timeframe. But with building rates falling by more than a quarter in recent years, we’ll need to look at more options to ensure housing needs are met.

If cities are to be able to deliver on their strategic economic growth plans, we need to think beyond city boundaries. The way to do this is to allow cities to enter planning partnerships with their neighbours to drive regeneration.

These bodies would pool devolved powers, holding control of financing and land. They’d be protected from schemes being called in by the secretary of state, and funded through capturing uplifts in land value. This would push regeneration across the north, by meeting affordable housing targets at the regional rather than local level; it would spread the benefits of devolution beyond urban hubs.

We also need to ensure the housebuilding drive crosses all tenure types. We need more homes that families want to buy, and more rental properties for young professionals and entrepreneurs.

There is a particular need for good quality, affordable private rented homes in the centres of the north’s major cities; these will help retain and attract the young professionals who will work in high growth sectors, such as tech in Manchester or financial services in Leeds. Handing retention of the new buy to let stamp duty levy to city regions would facilitate the creation of funds to attract long-term investment in private rented developments.

At the same time, northern cities need to look at what can be done to ensure the housing needs of young families are met. Instead of national affordable housing targets that have to be followed regardless of local conditions, we should consider how empty property can be brought back into use – for example, by replacing affordable housing targets with other aims such as renovation of underused housing stock. Such an approach offers a way to spread growth beyond city centres, to create more thriving communities across the north, whilst at the same time offering more desirable locations for young families to live.

This is an exciting time. If national and local policy-makers get housing and planning decisions right, we could see sustained growth in cities that are prepared for it in a way that London never has been. We must realise that now is the time to act.

Edward Douglas is a senior policy and projects officer at think tank Respublica.


The IPPC report on the melting ice caps makes for terrifying reading

A Greeland iceberg, 2007. Image: Getty.

Earlier this year, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) – the UN body responsible for communicating the science of climate breakdown – released its long-awaited Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate.

Based on almost 7,000 peer-reviewed research articles, the report is a cutting-edge crash course in how human-caused climate breakdown is changing our ice and oceans and what it means for humanity and the living planet. In a nutshell, the news isn’t good.

Cryosphere in decline

Most of us rarely come into contact with the cryosphere, but it is a critical part of our climate system. The term refers to the frozen parts of our planet – the great ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica, the icebergs that break off and drift in the oceans, the glaciers on our high mountain ranges, our winter snow, the ice on lakes and the polar oceans, and the frozen ground in much of the Arctic landscape called permafrost.

The cryosphere is shrinking. Snow cover is reducing, glaciers and ice sheets are melting and permafrost is thawing. We’ve known this for most of my 25-year career, but the report highlights that melting is accelerating, with potentially disastrous consequences for humanity and marine and high mountain ecosystems.

At the moment, we’re on track to lose more than half of all the permafrost by the end of the century. Thousands of roads and buildings sit on this frozen soil – and their foundations are slowly transitioning to mud. Permafrost also stores almost twice the amount of carbon as is present in the atmosphere. While increased plant growth may be able to offset some of the release of carbon from newly thawed soils, much will be released to the atmosphere, significantly accelerating the pace of global heating.

Sea ice is declining rapidly, and an ice-free Arctic ocean will become a regular summer occurrence as things stand. Indigenous peoples who live in the Arctic are already having to change how they hunt and travel, and some coastal communities are already planning for relocation. Populations of seals, walruses, polar bears, whales and other mammals and sea birds who depend on the ice may crash if sea ice is regularly absent. And as water in its bright-white solid form is much more effective at reflecting heat from the sun, its rapid loss is also accelerating global heating.

Glaciers are also melting. If emissions continue on their current trajectory, smaller glaciers will shrink by more than 80 per cent by the end of the century. This retreat will place increasing strain on the hundreds of millions of people globally who rely on glaciers for water, agriculture, and power. Dangerous landslides, avalanches, rockfalls and floods will become increasingly normal in mountain areas.

Rising oceans, rising problems

All this melting ice means that sea levels are rising. While seas rose globally by around 15cm during the 20th century, they’re now rising more than twice as fast –- and this rate is accelerating.

Thanks to research from myself and others, we now better understand how Antarctica and Greenland’s ice sheets interact with the oceans. As a result, the latest report has upgraded its long-term estimates for how much sea level is expected to rise. Uncertainties still remain, but we’re headed for a rise of between 60 and 110cm by 2100.

Of course, sea level isn’t static. Intense rainfall and cyclones – themselves exacerbated by climate breakdown – can cause water to surge metres above the normal level. The IPCC’s report is very clear: these extreme storm surges we used to expect once per century will now be expected every year by mid-century. In addition to rapidly curbing emissions, we must invest millions to protect at-risk coastal and low-lying areas from flooding and loss of life.

Ocean ecosystems

Up to now, the ocean has taken up more than 90 per cent of the excess heat in the global climate system. Warming to date has already reduced the mixing between water layers and, as a consequence, has reduced the supply of oxygen and nutrients for marine life. By 2100 the ocean will take up five to seven times more heat than it has done in the past 50 years if we don’t change our emissions trajectory. Marine heatwaves are also projected to be more intense, last longer and occur 50 times more often. To top it off, the ocean is becoming more acidic as it continues to absorb a proportion of the carbon dioxide we emit.

Collectively, these pressures place marine life across the globe under unprecedented threat. Some species may move to new waters, but others less able to adapt will decline or even die out. This could cause major problems for communities that depend on local seafood. As it stands, coral reefs – beautiful ecosystems that support thousands of species – will be nearly totally wiped out by the end of the century.

Between the lines

While the document makes some striking statements, it is actually relatively conservative with its conclusions – perhaps because it had to be approved by the 195 nations that ratify the IPCC’s reports. Right now, I would expect that sea level rise and ice melt will occur faster than the report predicts. Ten years ago, I might have said the opposite. But the latest science is painting an increasingly grave picture for the future of our oceans and cryosphere – particularly if we carry on with “business as usual”.

The difference between 1.5°C and 2°C of heating is especially important for the icy poles, which warm much faster than the global average. At 1.5°C of warming, the probability of an ice-free September in the Arctic ocean is one in 100. But at 2°C, we’d expect to see this happening about one-third of the time. Rising sea levels, ocean warming and acidification, melting glaciers, and permafrost also will also happen faster – and with it, the risks to humanity and the living planet increase. It’s up to us and the leaders we choose to stem the rising tide of climate and ecological breakdown.

Mark Brandon, Professor of Polar Oceanography, The Open University.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.