The ongoing EU Referendum debate has led to some fascinating figures being bandied about regarding the UK’s lack of housing. “At current levels of immigration, the Office for National Statistics project that our population will continue to grow by around half a million a year – a city the size of Liverpool every year,” said Ex-Cabinet Minister and ardent Leave campaigner Liam Fox. “This will mean that, in England, we will have to build a new home every six minutes, or 240 a day, for the next 20 years to accommodate just the additional demand for housing from new migrants.”
By the time of the televised debate on 7 June, UKIP leader Nigel Farage had increased the figure to a home being required every four minutes.
Regardless of the politics and scaremongering, the UK does definitely need more homes, thanks to a growing population and a trend towards urbanisation. The theme is the same in cities around the world, with the UN projecting that 70% of the world’s population will live in urban areas by 2050.
In UK cities like Liverpool, re-urbanisation is leading to intense demand for housing. From a peak of 846,101 recorded in the 1931 Census onwards, the city’s population has been in decline, but the most recent Census (2011) showed a reversal of the trend, with Liverpool’s resident numbers increasing for the first time in 80 years, to 465,700.
Yet despite the increased appetite for city centre living, and in particular for rental accommodation in recent years as the private rented sector has grown to account for 19% of homes, decent apartments to rent in Liverpool are hard to find. A search on Zoopla reveals only 83 two bedroom apartments available to rent in the sought after L1 postcode area and just 42 one bedroom apartments. In neighbouring Toxteth (L8), the situation is much the same, with 63 two bedroom and 53 one bedroom apartments available across the entire postcode area.
Toxteth makes for an interesting case study. The once notorious area has seriously smartened up its image in recent years, with swanky bistros and artsy coffee houses spilling over from L1 into L8. The gentrification has in fact been so pronounced that Toxteth’s ‘Granby 4 Streets’ was nominated for the Turner art prize in 2015.
Stuart Johnson, Business Development Manager at Prime Centrum, said, “Liverpool’s re-urbanisation seemed to come as something of a surprise to city planners, so the city is playing catch up in terms of providing new, decent homes in areas where demand has spiked. The timing of the population increase was also a factor. Developers in 2011 were still coping with the economic hangover from the previous decade, so there weren’t many cranes on the move in Liverpool. Professionals were flocking to the city to work and demanding smart, new waterfront homes but the supply just couldn’t keep up.”
The re-urbanisation of cities such as Liverpool has become the new reality for city planners. Gone is the ‘managed decline’ approach, with regeneration projects capturing the interest of everyone from large tech companies to business start-ups. City living is on the up once more and the UK’s cities are racing to catch up.