Housebuilders’ body advises members to build ‘executive’ homes in North to prevent oversupply of apartments

The drive by the deputy prime minister to encourage high-density urban living took a knock this week after the House Builders’ Federation advised members against building publicly funded apartments in the North-east.

The HBF issued the warning in response to statistics that show a marked rise in apartment building.

The federation believes this will lead to a glut of unwanted housing.

In a letter copied to the North-east regional housing board, it says:

“The HBF is advising the need for caution on major publicly funded flat or apartment schemes in the North-east at present.

“It requests that all stakeholders engaged in such proposals work with their selected private sector partners to consider phasing their projects.”

National House Building Council statistics show that in the first quarter of last year, flats and maisonettes made up 42% of output. However, by the final quarter of the year that had risen to 47%, a record level.

Pierre Williams, spokesperson for the HBF, said that many areas could suffer from an oversupply of apartments.

He said: “We have expressed our concerns about this to government. If they want to see sustainable communities, that will mean putting in a broad range of housing types.”

Deputy prime minister John Prescott’s sustainable communities plan has often been criticised for concentrating too much on the needs of the South-east and relying on policies that only work there.

Critics argue that apartment-led town-centre regeneration is inappropriate in the North, which suffers from the problem of having areas of housing that nobody wants.

In response to the criticism, Prescott’s Northern Way campaign has started work on a strategy that could result in government-assisted schemes to develop more so-called executive housing.

The proposed action plan, which was published at the Urban Summit this month, said: “We are developing a proposal to work with the ODPM on the development of policy tailored to the particular circumstances of the North … to support and promote economic growth.”

An ODPM spokesperson said more executive housing would be built. The draft regional spatial strategy for the North-east also says there is a need for family-focused executive housing “to retain and attract future entrepreneurs and business leaders”.

In its letter to members the HBF said they must use the most up-to-date market research to match supply with demand. It said: “In some cases, this may entail more aspirational family housing.”