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New [pounds sterling]185m Perry Barr village to provide just 58 family homes after Commonwealth Games; Criticism of scheme as 12,500 people on housing waiting list at Birmingham City Council.

Byline: Jeanette Oldham

A sprawling 1,414-property athletes village being built for the Commonwealth Games will provide just 58 affordable houses for desperate Birmingham families.

The hugePerry Barr developmentwill house 6,500 of the world's finest sportsmen and women, alongside officials taking part in the 2022 spectacular.

Mayor Andy Street's West Midlands Combined Authority secured [pounds sterling]20 million funding for the city council-led redevelopment scheme, with central government providing around [pounds sterling]165 million through the Housing Delivery Board via the combined authority.

Politicians had spoken of a 'legacy' for the inner city areaafter the Games, with 1,400 new homes being made available to ease a chronic housing shortage.

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Yet we have learned just 58 affordable houses for families - three and four bedroomed - are included in the scheme, despite 12,500 people being on the city council's housing list.

Of the remaining properties a total of 1,000 will be sold privately through the free market, while 254 flats will be affordable - 161 of which will be 'extra care' apartments for the elderly.

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Ed Ruane, Cabinet Member for Housing at Coventry City Council, said: "For [pounds sterling]185million of public money from WMCA Housing funds to only produce 58 affordable houses for families, is an absolutely scandal, especially at a time, when 2,500 families and 1,500 children are living in temporary accommodation, hotels and B&B accommodation across the city.

"Central Government officials and WMCA officials know perfectly well that this level of public investment through a Housing fund does not meet any Housing funding formula or criteria whatsoever, but they've all chosen to turn a blind eye to it."

Commonwealth Games 2022

He added: "Andy Street has squandered the opportunity to seriously tackle Birmingham's housing crisis by allowing this huge housing investment of public money to provide so very few affordable houses."

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Perry Barr MPKhalid Mahmoodalso criticised the scheme.

He said: "I don't believe there is going to be enough affordable housing, not least given the huge public funding that's going into it.

"They wouldn't allow any other development company to do this. But because it's the city council themselves, they are allowing themselves all sorts of elasticity to do what they want to.

"And I'm also particularly concerned about people renting apartments because if you have too many single occupancy dwellings, you tend to have young people or old people.

"Who are the people who will be able to buy in that environment?

"I'm asking that many of the flats they're going to build to be converted into family homes, there are too many flats. The technology's there to be able to do that.

"I think it's essential that we look again at what's being planned here, and have a different structure that will be better able to accommodate families, and those who need social housing."

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Civic leaders had spoken proudly of thePerry Barr redevelopmentafter housing plans were approved for the site on the former Birmingham City University campus last year.

Mayor Andy Street talked about Perry Barr being a "game changer for the region with a lasting housing and regeneration legacy.

"I'm very proud of the part the combined authority has played in securing investment to support the Commonwealth Games Village and we are excited about our part in this project..."

Cllr Sharon Thompson, Birmingham Cabinet Member for Homes and Neighbourhoods, added: "Through this scheme we will provide people from across the Commonwealth sports movement a first-class home away from home when they come here for Birmingham 2022.

"But longer-term and even more importantly, the athletes' village will provide a place for 1,400 families to call home, part of a community that will be able to look back with pride at why and how their homes came to be built and look forward to living their lives in an improved Perry Barr."

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Cllr Ian Ward, leader of Birmingham City Council, has also spoken about a "desperate need for high-quality housing in the city and it would have been much trickier to meet that demand if we had not been successful in our bid to host the Games."

New estates built by private developers typically include a standard 25 per cent social housing, and Birmingham City Council usually has 35 per cent.

Birmingham City Council says thePerry Barr schemeoffers 22 per cent affordable and social housing - but that includes the retirement village.

Yet just 58 properties will be three or four bedroom houses - family homes - for social rent.

The rest will be made up of one or two bedroom apartments for the retirement village.

The 58 family houses will come under the Birmingham Municipal Trust, a charity launched by the city council in 2009 to restart council house building.

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Cllr Ruane said: "Winning events such as the Commonwealth Games, should always be used as an opportunity to address the social challenges that cities have.

"If not, then how do local people genuinely benefit?

"We increasingly live in an era of gesture politics when it comes to addressing homelessness, with politicians posing at foodbanks and homeless shelters, rather than taking action.

"We all know that we need more affordable housing due to the thousands of families on the housing waiting list and yet this 'housing scheme' won't even scratch the surface in tackling this problem.

"It sickens me that [pounds sterling]185million of Housing funds can be used in such a way, that doesn't actually meet the people's housing needs."

"The residential element of the first phase of the Perry Barr development will make a significant positive contribution to the city's housing need.

"This is just the first part of a much wider regeneration of Perry Barr, set to ultimately deliver 5,000 new homes.

"This first phase is configured in a way that enables the properties to be initially used by athletes and officials for the 2022 Commonwealth Games before then being converted for general citizen use.

"This is why this phase of the development contains a greater proportion of apartments. "Also, as the Planning Committee report clearly states for the Phase 1 scheme, the percentage of affordable properties (22 per cent, against a city target of 35 per cent) has been independently verified as being higher than the viable number if this were a scheme being delivered without the use of public funds.

"In fact, over the five years from 2013-2018, the percentage of affordable homes on all developments in Birmingham was 21.89 per cent -- meaning the Village is in line with recent trends.

"If this scheme were not being delivered by the council, using public money, the share of affordable homes would have been much lower on this site. This shows the positive influence the council is having in the delivery of as many affordable homes as possible.

"All of the family homes (58) in Phase 1 of the Perry Barr Regeneration scheme will be made available as social housing for rent via the council.

"Future phases of the Perry Barr regeneration project will aim to increase the overall percentage of affordable homes and houses that are available via the wider regeneration scheme as the city strives to meet an overall housing target of 51,000 new homes by 2031.

"Phase 2 of the Perry Barr regeneration project, currently in the very early stages of planning, will provide for mainly family housing, with exact numbers yet to be confirmed."

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"The WMCA's submission to government for Housing Infrastructure Fund investment was for a [pounds sterling]250m package across a number of projects and - as always - a number of possible options were considered before settling on a final scheme.

"The benefit cost ratio for Perry Barr was derived from researching and providing evidence on the benefits that accrue from delivering this scheme.

"The [pounds sterling]165m investment in Perry Barr was made following a business case which was accepted by government as demonstrating value for money.

"The [pounds sterling]185m will support delivery of a range of housing and regeneration schemes across the Perry Barr area.

"The Athletes' Village is the first phase - but in the longer term it will mean some 5000 new homes provided in the area for local people.

"As the local planning authority, Birmingham City Council has independently verified that, without public investment, there would be much less affordable housing during the first phase and said it will aim to increase the percentage of affordable homes in subsequent phases. "

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The Perry Barr housing scheme was labelled as having 'very low benefit-cost ratio' by West Midlands Combined Authority at one stage.

Documents seen by the Birmingham Mail show WMCA became aware that the benefit-cost ratio for the overall funding bid for the village was not high enough to hit Government requirements.

The combined authority successfully presented a business case for [pounds sterling]250m of housing/regeneration funding to the Government for the project and other regional developments.

Part of the original scheme included highway improvements to the Coventry Ring Road at Junction 9 to boost housing infrastructure in the area, costing [pounds sterling]10.1 million.

But the combined authority and other local authority officers had planned for the ring road funding reduced by [pounds sterling]2m before the successful bid for the [pounds sterling]250m went ahead.

The reason was to boost the 'benefit-cost ratio' of the entire West Midlands projects - because Perry Barr was deemed as having 'very low' benefit-cost ratio.

Council officers were warned last August that the entire [pounds sterling]250m funding for the village and other developments could be at risk unless the [pounds sterling]2m cut was agreed.

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Birmingham City Council says 89,000 new homes need to be built in the city - and 200,000 across the whole of the West Midlands - by 2031 to meet growing demand.

But the authority admits it will not hit that figure and is instead aiming to see 51,000 new-builds available by that date, including private properties and affordable and social housing.

The council has previously said: "It is not possible to deliver all of this additional housing within the city boundary.

"The City Council will continue to work actively with neighbouring councils... to ensure that appropriate provision is made elsewhere within the Greater Birmingham Housing Market Area to meet the shortfall of 37,900 homes, including about 14,400 affordable dwellings."

Many of the homes will be built by the council's Birmingham Municipal Housing Trust.

The trust has built 3,000 properties since it was launched ten years ago and hopes to build a further 2,000 homes over the next five years.

On its own developments, 60 per cent of properties are for social rent and 40 per cent are sold at market rate.

Yet the Perry Barr development has just 22 per cent affordable homes ratio, with the rest being sold off by home builders for potentially huge profits.

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CAPTION(S):

Credit: Birmingham Mail

Andy Street, Mayor of Birmingham; Louise Martin, president of Commonwealth games federation; Ian Ward, leader of Birmingham City council

Credit: Jeremy Pardoe
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Publication:Birmingham Post (Birmingham, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Mar 12, 2019
Words:1934
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