The creation of the West Midlands Combined Authority presents housing organisations in the West Midlands with major opportunities to accelerate economic prosperity as well provide much-needed affordable housing. The WMCA has begun advancing our region’s economy, overseeing transport infrastructure investment, identifying land for economic and housing development, and has published the results of a highly innovative Mental Health Commission.
Housing organisations in the West Midlands are playing a major role too. The West Midlands Housing Association Partnership has been formed, to engage and support the new devolved authority to deliver thousands of new homes. It comprises 22 partner housing associations and will provide a single voice to help the WMCA to deliver its social and economic aims, through housing, and related activities such as employment and health.
This new report, supported by the WMCA, the NHF, the CIH and housing associations in the West Midlands, researched and written by Futures Network West Midlands and the Human City Institute, has been published to raise the profile of housing issues in the West Midlands. It recommends a ‘whole stock’ approach, which was partly supported by February’s Housing White Paper, recognising that resolving our region’s housing problems needs investment in existing as well as new housing.
The report also describes our region’s key housing challenges and recommends action to accelerate housing supply while confronting existing housing needs. It emphasises that housing investment is good VFM. It not only supports economic development – by improving labour mobility for example – but also creates economic value of itself; by generating jobs, training and apprenticeships, and by sustaining local supply-chains.
Housing is both a facilitator and a driver of economic growth, the report concludes, and is now rightly recognised as vital infrastructure. Alongside, new or improved housing reduces the burden on the NHS by promoting good physical and mental health, as well as supporting greater opportunities for advancement and fulfilment of aspirations, and boosting life chances.
The WMCA, and the Mayor when elected, will need to develop a strategic housing role that fits well with established ambitions to improve the durability of the West Midlands economy and upgrade transport infrastructure. But all housing sectors – council, private and housing association – will need to work together more effectively to ensure our region’s housing challenges are met.
Amanda Tomlinson, Chief Executive of Black Country Housing Group