Tuesday30 August 2011

US-inspired plan to break up sink estates gets green light

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The Mixed Communities pilot, based on America's Hope VI programme, is to be given resources to go national

A showpiece initiative to turn sink estates into mixed communities is to be extended.

Jon Bright, the deputy director of the Neighbourhood Renewal Unit, told a Capita conference this week that the government wanted to extend its Mixed Communities initiative, which has the backing of the Treasury.

He said the government planned to extend the initiative's principles across its housing market renewal programme and the New Deal for Communities regeneration scheme.

The Mixed Communities initiative, which is based on the US government's Hope VI programme, is designed to break up the most acute concentrations of poverty on social housing estates by redeveloping them with more private and shared ownership housing. The NRU is responsible for implementing the initiative with English Partnerships. Three pilots have been confirmed and eight are being considered.

Bright said departments across Whitehall would use next year's Comprehensive Spending Review to fund greater support for services in rundown neighbourhoods. It is hoped that enhanced services would give developers more incentive to invest in such areas.

He said: "We need to realign funding priorities to incentivise mixed communities, not just housing but health, schools and crime."

As an example, schools could be offered extra revenue to tide them over when registrations fell during the redevelopment process.

He added that one of the critical issues for next summer's spending review would be how to find funds for initiatives such as neighbourhood wardens, who would have the job of improving security in rundown areas.

Bright has undertaken a tour of some of the 166 American cities that have been chosen for Hope VI projects. He said high-quality design and management were the keys to attracting high-earning households.

"We need a stronger focus on good design and to demand more from developers," he said. "One of the most important lessons we learned is the importance of the quality of design in terms of neighbourhoods and housing."

He also outlined details of the pilots in Leeds, Manchester and Canning Town in east London.

Speaking at the same conference, David Orr, chief executive of the National Housing Federation, predicted that housing associations would increasingly diversify into providing mixed neighbourhoods by building more homes for private sale and rent.

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