Bjorn Howard, Group chief executive officer responds to the Levelling Up White Paper

Bjorn Howard, Group chief executive officer of housing association Aster Group:

“There have been differing views on what Levelling Up should mean but it’s important to understand that helping disadvantaged areas of the country isn’t as binary as north vs south. There are plenty of communities in the south with large pockets of deprivation and these communities shouldn’t be locked out of schemes aiming to ‘level up’ the economy. It’s therefore encouraging to see emphasis placed on empowering local decision making in counties like Cornwall, Devon, Plymouth and Torbay, and I look forward to seeing further details regarding the commitment to deliver more genuinely affordable social housing.

“It’s also encouraging to see a Brownfield Fund as part of the plans, given it can be difficult to redevelop brownfield sites. However, the list of towns that will be able to access the fund is relatively modest for what is a nationwide issue. In part, the answer may be to approach these challenges in a different way. For example, Community Land Trusts, which empower local people to develop new homes, are currently used mainly in rural locations, yet there is potential for them to benefit urban areas too. Equally, when we consider our national housing stock, we must also make sure it meets the needs of all age groups.

“It’s a cliché to say that there’s no silver bullet to solving Britain’s housing crisis, but that shouldn’t stop us trying new ways to tackle such a fundamental issue.”

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