With Chancellor Philip Hammond expected to unveil an update on his party’s Northern Powerhouse strategy at this week’s Conservative Party Conference, new research reveals that business leaders from across the North of England want the Government to extend its Northern Powerhouse plans to include a greater focus on boosting the supply of affordable, family homes in the North; both to meet the housing needs of local workers while attracting the best talent from outside the region.
The independent survey of more than 500 business leaders from across the North of England, which was commissioned by premium Northern housebuilder Avant Homes, found that a third (32%) of senior management, C-level executives and business owners in the North of England believe the Government needs to invest more to increase the housing supply in the North to support the region’s growth.
According to the research, 45% of Northern business leaders believe that the Government’s Northern Powerhouse plans will attract more new staff from outside the region for employment, while 46% believe the Government’s initiatives will also encourage more staff to stay in the region for work, thereby making the current housing supply and demand imbalance in the region even more acute.
Adding to the pressure, 63% of the companies surveyed said they are planning to expand their operations over the next year, with 58% confirming that the Government’s Northern Powerhouse initiatives will encourage them to invest still more in the region in the future.
However, half (47%) of Northern business leaders believe that there isn’t currently enough quality, family housing in the North of England to support this growth, while 56% said that a lack of desirable housing is limiting the appeal of the North to potential employees currently based outside the region.
Worryingly, 49% also said that a lack of affordable family housing has had a negative impact on their business to date, due to difficulties around attracting new employees to the region, existing employees moving away for better housing elsewhere and due to long commute times from home. Large companies with 251-1,000 employees have been most affected by this trend, with 54% confirming that employees have left the company due to a lack of quality, affordable family housing in the region.
Colin Lewis, Chief Executive of Avant Homes, commented: “Although housing was briefly touched upon within the Government’s initial Northern Powerhouse strategy, its main stated priorities have always been on improving the region’s connectivity and infrastructure, skills, innovation and trade. However, this focus does not chime with the demands of a third of Northern business leaders, who want to see the Government boosting the supply of new homes in the North of England to meet the housing needs of their existing and future workforce in the region.
“With the Help to Buy scheme ending soon and with most of the largest listed housebuilders focused on growing their new home volumes in the more lucrative Southern housing market, the chronic undersupply of housing in the North is getting increasingly severe, taking its toll on both the local workforce and their employers.
“If the Government wants its Northern Powerhouse strategy to succeed and for the North of England to reach its true potential, the region must be able to retain, attract and house the best talent. As today’s survey shows, the availability of quality affordable homes in the North is a crucial part of this.”