City Centre Housing Growth and Public Policy

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Many cities in Britain have struggled to keep pace with the demand for housing, as they have sought to rebalance economies. This especially true in Northern cities who must accommodate growth while continuing to tackle the structural legacy of their industrial pasts. The government recognises how important vibrant city economies are to sustainable growth and have struck ‘city deals’ with the eight core cities (with more to come). These deals devolve power and investment to local authorities in return for coherent and imaginative growth programmes founded on partnership and strong leadership. (Paul Brant, 2012)

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Benefits and Drawbacks of larger city centre populations

Cities centres are constantly growing all over the world. This is due to cities usually being the social, business and cultural hub of most countries. The increase in population within city centres brings several benefits: Economic growth by having a better and more diverse workforce, better infrastructure and developments which is needed in order to cater for the influx of people and better and more imaginative use of land as it is finite.

Large populations in a city centre could potentially lead to overcrowding. It can also create ‘segregation and spatial concentrations of poverty.’ (Catherine Glossop 2008). Big cities tend to have good job opportunities, however with a big influx of people, this could potentially become a problem as there will be numerous people competing for a single job.

An example of a city which has grown rapidly is Manchester. After the deindustrialisation era, the city centre has been booming in all sectors. However there have been many problems with all this growth affecting the housing sector. More than 15,000 affordable homes have been built however, none of the homes being built are truly ‘affordable’. This has been a growing concern and will be discussed further. (Pidd, H. 2018)

In Contrast, Leeds had thousands of affordable homes left empty waiting for demand to increase. Demand increased rapidly and now the glut of affordable housing has disappeared and demand now outweighs the supply of affordable housing.

At a public hearing, Leeds city council housing plans were labelled as a “catastrophic failure” in building affordable housing. The government has given Leeds a target of around 50,000 new houses to build. A panel of politicians, developers and members of the public assembled at Civic Hall to discuss the site allocations plan, which will decide where the new houses will be built. (West Leeds dispatch, 2018).

The Growth of city centre Housing in Manchester

After the de-industrialisation of Manchester, there was a need to re-think the regeneration of Manchester city centre. This included the growth of housing to accommodate the influx of people. Furthermore, with more and more people attending Manchester Universities from around the UK but also from overseas, Manchester needed to create accommodation to cater for the influx of students.

Manchester has grown at a rapid rate in terms of the housing sector. This was due to the clever strategical policy to apply for funding from the EU which didn’t only cover the housing sector but also investment in businesses, job opportunities, educational facilities and many others. Manchester has received over £136million in funding from the EU alone in 2016. however, this will potentially change in the forthcoming months due to the possible withdrawal from the EU. (Shelina begum 2016)

The introduction of the permitted development rights could potentially cause problems. Planning laws in favour of residential developments, (offices being turned into accommodation) could severely affect the supply of commercial space if Manchester’s city centre economy continues recent strong growth. (Paul Swinney 2016)

The ‘Right to Buy’ policy is also a problem when looking at city centre growth. In September there was a call to suspend ‘Right to buy’ policy in Greater Manchester as 5,000 council houses were sold off and no replacements built.

Leeds has around 64,000 council houses. In 1980, the Thatcher Government introduced the ‘right to buy’ for council tenants, offering tenants their homes at knock-down prices. More than 27,000 homes have been sold: houses which would have been available to people unable to afford to buy a home. The effect of the sales has been worsened by soaring private property prices, leaving even more people unable to buy. Now there are 30,000 people in Leeds waiting for a council home more suited to their needs or waiting for a first council home – just a few more than the number of homes sold under ‘right to buy.’ (Katie Baldwin, 2005)

Key Drivers for Growth and increased Housing Demand

One of the key drivers of growth in Manchester city centre has been by young professionals and the private sector. Manchester city centre economy has had a resurgence after the de-industrialisation.

Another key driver relates to decisions on how space is used across a city. People value amenities differently at different stages of their lives, and this means that they choose to live in different parts of a city – be that the city centre, the suburbs or the fringes of a city. This means that the geography that planning decisions are taken should stretch across a city, rather than individual local authorities. (Paul Swinney 2016)

Manchester is trying to become an interconnected thriving city which has sustained growth. The demand for housing in Manchester has increased due to the price of land. Furthermore, people and businesses are paying extortionate amounts of money in order to live and work in central London, resulting in many people and businesses being pushed out of London to cheaper cities like Manchester, Birmingham and Leeds. This was due to, as said before, price of land being cheaper but also lower operating costs helping companies increase their profitability.

The supply of housing has changed drastically however, demand still out strips the supply of housing due to a large influx of people wanting to locate in Manchester city centre. This will include the movement of companies and more and more students attending the various universities in Manchester city centre.

What role should government and policy play?

The government needs to implement a housing policy which is more responsive to the local economic development. The role of housing policy is to help regenerate areas which are below the national housing standards. Away from London, the Core Cities group of local authorities—comprising (in England) Birmingham, Bristol, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham and Sheffield, and recently augmented by Glasgow (in Scotland) and Cardiff (in Wales)—have sought to position their areas as drivers of regional growth (Core Cities, 2013 cited by Houston and Fothergill 2016).

To deliver their vision, the Core Cities group have called for the extensive devolution of powers and finance from central government to their areas. ‘Cities drive growth and the way we run them shapes the economy’ claim the (Core Cities 2013, p.5).

Are there are any problems associated with city centre housing development?

There are several problems which associate with city centre housing developments, including overcrowding and demographic changes. The housing policy in Manchester is being questioned as people are concerned that the city centre is being dominated by apartments for urban professionals and people from a lower income demographic are being pushed outwards.

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City Centre Housing Growth And Public Policy. (2021, Apr 09). Retrieved February 6, 2023 , from

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