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Housing renewal cash 'too little'

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Housing minister Grant Shapps has made £30m available to five areas affected by the scrapping of a flagship housing regeneration initiative but critics argue it is too little and will have a limited impact.

Mr Shapps, left, said the £30m pot would be made available for the Housing Market Renewal (HMR) pathfinder areas in Merseyside, East Lancashire, North Staffordshire, Hull and Teesside.

Last year Mr Shapps announced that the HMR scheme, initially worth £5bn when it was launched in 2002, would be scrapped mid-programme, leaving unfinished swathes of the schemes aimed at regenerating rundown housing.

He said the £30m would contribute to “locally-led” schemes to help families who were “trapped” in streets where schemes had stalled, with local authorities in the five areas asked to match-fund their proposals.

“This coalition government is committed to helping vulnerable people and will not stand by when residents are stranded in derelict neighbourhoods through no fault of their own,” he said, adding that the cash would act is a “lifeline” for communities hit by the government’s cuts.

Alexandra Jones, Centre for Cities chief executive, said some communities would benefit from the money that has been allocated, but the extent of the problem was far greater than a one-off pot of £30m could address.

She said: “Pulling money from the scheme when it was halfway through had a very real impact on some of the most vulnerable communities in the country; streets and streets of houses were left boarded up with no real action plan to help affected areas.

“Originally, £5bn was allocated to complete the scheme. Half of that was spent over the first seven years of the project, so it is likely that far more will be needed to help these communities get back on track.”

Abigail Davies, Chartered Institute of Housing assistant director of policy & practice, said: “The problem that Grant Shapps has identified is a real one and £30m will be useful to help individuals who are still living in these areas waiting for regeneration.

“But this is not enough to replace the millions of pounds that was cut from the housing market renewal programme in the comprehensive spending review. Areas with large scale economic problems need government intervention alongside local participation.”

One senior figure in an HMR area said the £30m was a “risible”.

“It’s just breath-taking hypocrisy, on the one hand to scrap the programme then on the other claim they are helping out the vulnerable people hit by their cuts,” he said.


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