Across the UK, a growing number of families and individuals find themselves priced out of safe, decent housing and in the Midlands, this crisis has reached alarming proportions.

As the new metro mayor Richard Parker takes office, his pledge to construct 20,000 social rented units by the end of the decade could lead the region on a path towards unleashing the Midlands’ immense potential and tackling the insidious impacts of the affordable housing crisis.

In this article, Joanna Lee-Mills (Partner and Head of Social Housing Development, Shakespeare Martineau) examines the Mayor’s pledge and what it could mean for the West Midlands.

(15 May 2024)

The Housing Crisis and Its Impact


The housing crisis in the UK has been a persistent and multifaceted issue, with a severe shortage of affordable housing options, particularly in the social rented sector. In the Midlands region, the impact of this crisis has been profound, affecting individuals, families, and the local economy.

According to the latest statistics from April 2024, Birmingham alone has over 20,000 households on the waiting list for social rented homes, with the wider West Midlands region facing a shortage of over 100,000 units. Cities like Coventry and Wolverhampton face thousands more in insecure housing. Homelessness has spiked 27% regionally since 2019.

This shortage has led to a range of negative consequences, including:

Increased homelessness and housing insecurity: With limited access to affordable housing options, many individuals and families find themselves in precarious living situations, facing the risk of homelessness or forced to live in overcrowded or substandard conditions.

Strain on local services: The lack of affordable housing puts additional pressure on local services, such as emergency shelters, food banks, and social services, as more individuals and families struggle to maintain stable housing.

Negative impact on health and well-being: Inadequate housing conditions can have detrimental effects on physical and mental health, contributing to increased stress, respiratory issues, and other health problems.

Barriers to employment and economic mobility: Without access to affordable housing near employment centres, individuals may face longer commutes, higher transportation costs, and limited opportunities for career advancement or job retention.


The Value of Social Rented Homes for the Local Economy

Increasing the availability of social rented homes in the Midlands is not only a matter of addressing the housing crisis but also a crucial investment in the local economy and ecosystem. Here are some of the key benefits:

Improved workforce productivity and retention: When individuals have access to affordable housing near their workplaces, they can better focus on their jobs, reducing absenteeism and turnover, and contributing to increased productivity.

Boosted local spending and economic growth: With more disposable income due to lower housing costs, residents in social rented homes can contribute to the local economy by spending on goods and services, supporting local businesses and creating job opportunities.

Reduced strain on public services: By providing stable and affordable housing options, the demand for emergency shelters, social services, and other public assistance programs can be alleviated, allowing for more efficient allocation of resources.

Enhanced community cohesion and social stability: Affordable housing promotes diverse and inclusive communities, fostering social stability and reducing the segregation often associated with concentrated poverty or gentrification.


Mayor Richard Parker’s Pledge and Its Significance

In his recent election campaign, Mayor Parker pledged to prioritize the development of social rented homes in the Midlands region. His ambitious plan aims to create 20,000 new social rented units by the end of the decade, with a focus on Birmingham and other major urban centres.

This pledge holds significant importance for the region, as it represents a concrete step towards addressing the housing crisis and its associated impacts. By increasing the availability of genuinely affordable housing options, Mayor Parker’s plan has the potential to:

Alleviate housing insecurity and homelessness: With more social rented homes, individuals and families will have greater access to stable and affordable housing, reducing the risk of homelessness and housing insecurity.

Support economic growth and workforce development: By providing affordable housing near employment centres, the plan can contribute to improved workforce productivity, retention, and economic mobility.

Promote inclusive and diverse communities: Social rented homes can foster more inclusive and diverse communities, reducing the segregation often associated with concentrated poverty or gentrification.

Reduce the strain on public services: With stable housing, the demand for emergency shelters, social services, and other public assistance programs can be alleviated, allowing for more efficient allocation of resources.


An Ambitious Blueprint for the Midlands’ Revival  

It is successes like these that inform Mayor Parker’s  plan to deliver 2,000 social rented units a year by 2028, with early priorities in Birmingham, Coventry and the Black Country. By channelling projected rental incomes and leveraging partnerships with housing associations, the mayor aims to unlock over £4 billion in construction investment.

Prioritising social housing is about more than just providing homes – it’s about creating opportunity, sustainable communities, and economic revival for our entire region,” Parker stated.

However, the mayor acknowledges that significant hurdles remain, from securing adequate funding to vocal opposition by some private developers viewing social housing as competition. But with over two-thirds of Midlanders supporting social housing expansions in a recent regional poll, Parker’s team stands on strong ground as they prepare to navigate the political battlefield.


Looking Ahead: A Prosperous, Inclusive Vision

If realised, Parker’s blueprint offers a prosperous vision for the Midlands. Projections indicate his social housing boom could catalyse over £700 million annually in regional economic activity while housing 125,000 residents in modern, energy-efficient homes near employment hubs.

More critically, it represents an opportunity to reverse decades of inequity. By alleviating the immense burden unstable housing places on families, educational outcomes and community health stand to improve markedly. Meanwhile, employers could access a revitalized local workforce bolstered by reduced turnover.

For too long, the Midlands has shouldered the weight of a housing crisis depriving its residents of dignity, opportunity and the means to thrive. As Mayor Parker seizes the reins, his ambitious social housing agenda emerges as more than just a construction effort – it is a catalyst to unlock the region’s vast potential through the empowering force of an affordable home.


Joanna heads up the Social Housing Development team at Shakespeare Martineau and specialises in affordable housing development, acquisitions and disposals. Having worked for registered providers since 2001, Joanna has frequently acted as project lead with large multi-disciplinary teams for the development of social housing, stock transfers or swaps. Her expertise encompasses s106 or land led acquisitions, and development agreements for golden brick or turnkey schemes.

Previous projects have seen Joanna as project lead on the country’s then largest tenanted stock rationalisation transaction involving a complex funding model, and also the country’s first stock swap.

Joanna’s role is instrumental in the strategic growth and direction of the social housing development team and its interface with other sector teams from around the firm. Notably, she is keen to promote collaboration and working closely with colleagues across the firm’s planning, construction and residential development departments in order to provide clients with a seamless and rounded affordable housing service offering. Joanna is heavily invested in her client relationship and profile raising role, often procuring pipeline not only for her team but other departments in the wider sector team also.

With a keen interest in knowledge sharing on sector specific challenges, Joanna has written articles on issues such as stock rationalisation, the impact of the Green agenda on the built environment and the importance of joint ventures and public private partnerships towards the housing crisis, having been published in Inside Housing, Social Housing and other specialist property publications. She is an active participant in the housing sector and local business community, being on the Board of Directors at Auxesia Homes, TAG Network Midlands Limited and Colmore BID.

Connect with Joanna: