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Reclaiming the inner city for new housing

Reclaiming the inner city for new housing

A growing population, many of whom aspire to home ownership, together with a shortage of both housing and available land, has led to a nationwide search for new development sites. With the absolute need to preserve the green belt attention could now turn to the UK’s inner city areas. Although some districts, mostly in London, are already undergoing a rapid process of gentrification, albeit to the chagrin of some, the inner city represents an opportunity to not only house a new generation of home owners, but to also breathe much needed life into under-used and often neglected urban areas.

From slums to suburbs

The inner cities of the UK have had a turbulent history. From the cycle of squalid slums and over-population of the Industrial Revolution to the dash for the suburbs of the twentieth century, they have being left clinging to the empty commerce of the past and largely bereft of new residential development. But all that could be about to change.

The government’s Housing and Planning Bill, currently progressing through Parliament, intends to speed the construction of new housing and increase the number of affordable homes available to first time buyers. It's an initiative which has the potential to revitalise many inner city areas.

Ripe for development

Reclaiming the inner cities for residential housing isn't a new idea but it is one that could now receive real impetus. This could be especially true in the north. With large tracts of prime real estate populated with abandoned warehouses, empty factories, and boarded up shops, new housing can inject life and spirit into decaying streets and docklands.

The process that began, but some would say stalled, with projects such as those in the waterfront areas of Liverpool and Leith, can pick up pace once more by harnessing government policy with local authority ambition.

Building homes and communities

Thus far inner city development has tended to consist solely of the conversion of existing buildings, such as warehouses, into apartment blocks. But a new phase of regeneration could see residential housing being built in areas cleared of their commercial legacy.

This process should be helped by a facet of the Housing and Planning Bill which will impose a legal duty on local authorities to allocate land for new starter homes. Where better to build those homes than in hitherto ignored inner city areas where derelict land can be cleared and allocated for housing?

Further impetus will be gathered from a relaxation in planning rules which makes it a quicker and easier process for developers to convert commercial property into residential dwellings. Those long-closed shops and forgotten factories could be replaced with starter homes populated by first-time buyers keen not only to take their first steps on the property ladder but to also to build new and vibrant communities.

All of which could herald a real boom for the UK's inner cities as developers attempt to meet the government’s 2020 target of one million new homes.

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