Headlines: January 18th, 2006

A lack of new well-designed family homes for sale could undermine Government plans to revitalise Britain’s inner cities, according to research for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. Unless developers build more homes suitable for growing families in the new mixed income housing developments, then hopes to improve schools and services for families already living in inner city neighbourhoods may not be realised.The study focused on four contrasting mixed income inner city developments. It found that family homes built for sale were not available in sufficient numbers, or were too small or poorly designed for families. In two newly built London neighbourhoods that were studied, 8 out of 10 private homes had only one or two bedrooms. It also found that in regenerated low income neighbourhoods, more family homes were built and families on moderate incomes bought them in the initial stages. But as land values rose, these households could not afford to move to larger homes as their families grew and similar families could not afford to move in. The result was that in all four areas studied the proportion of families with children in the private sector homes was considerably lower than in the population at large.

The researchers found that constraints on the supply of family accommodation include Government building targets which have been set in numbers of “units””, without regard to the number of bedrooms, thereby favouring small new homes. Developers are also reluctant to experiment with flats for families, in spite of successful examples in other European countries and they assume that families and flats are incompatible. Another substantial constraint is that where land values are high and there is a demand for one-and two-bedroom flats, developers prefer to build these rather than family homes.

The report recommends that the Government could invest in some demonstration projects, working with developers and local authorities, to highlight how family accommodation might be successfully provided in the inner cities. It suggests that local authorities and regeneration partnerships should raise the issue of building family homes for sale as an explicit social goal as they enter into partnerships with housebuilders.