The government must rethink the housing growth areas of the South-east by focusing on mixed communities and family homes, according to think tank the Institute for Public Policy Research.
The report compiled by the IPPR, which has links to New Labour, says the growth areas must be developed to appeal to people on high and low incomes. It warns that otherwise these areas are in danger of becoming the “sink estates of tomorrow”.
The report recommends more than doubling the 200,000 homes promised by the deputy prime minister John Prescott by 2016.
It says this would help more working class people to get a foot on the housing ladder.
The infrastructure to support these extra houses is expected to cost about £300m a year.
The report says the case for the homes should be put by Ruth Kelly, communities and local government minister.
It report adds that without these extra houses, there will continue to be a chronic shortage of homes in the region.
Jim Bennett, the IPPR’s head of social policy, said: “The government’s plans for housing in the South-east’s growth areas are not ambitious enough to meet the projected demand.”
The government’s plans for housing in the growth areas are not ambitious enough to meet demand
Jim Bennett, IPPR
He added that the situation would quickly deteriorate unless the government addressed the need for supply. “The problems we are seeing with meeting the demand for affordable housing will get worse, and the strain on social housing will get worse,” he said.
The report warns against building too many one and two-bedroom flats in high-rise apartment blocks instead of family homes. “We need family friendly developments, and parks, sports and community facilities to help newcomers mix and settle in,” said Bennett.
The report is based on the latest household projections for England, along with a series of focus groups. The IPPR held discussions with one group of prospective residents of the Thames Gateway area and another group of people already living in the area.
A significant outcome of these discussions was that neither group had a high opinion of new developments in terms of design or quality.
Their top three concerns were that new-build homes had thin walls and floors, small rooms and poor quality finishing.
In response to this negative perception, the IPPR says the government must strive to provide better quality affordable and sustainable homes if it is to satisfy residents.
Bennett warned that no costs should be cut. “There is no way that housing growth and sustainable homes can be delivered on the cheap,” he said.