Why good quality housing is key to a flourishing region

Having attractive and accessible housing is fundamental to attracting people with the skills our region needs to follow up on the opportunities offered by this year’s Budget, says Thirteen Housing Group CEO Ian Wardle.

“It’s a really exciting time for Teesside,” said Ian, who was speaking on Talking Business, the weekly digital business chat from Tees Business, in association with Thirteen.

“The announcements in the Budget were ground-breaking for the area, and on the back of them so much more will be unlocked.

“However, we need to encourage people to come to the area to help industries and businesses flourish and grow. If we don’t offer the right accommodation, people will go elsewhere – to somewhere that fits their pocket, their aspirations and their lifestyle.”

Ian, who has worked on Teesside most of his life, within both the private and public sectors, continued: “There a perception that it’s very affordable to live on Teesside, but the reality is that you would need five to seven times the average salary to buy an average house here.

“That’s why it’s so important to give people a broad access to good, affordable housing, because if they haven’t got that foundation of housing then they won’t stay.”

Thirteen provide 28,000 homes at lower-than-market rent. Its objectives are to alleviate housing needs, ensuring that anyone who needs a home is provided with one.

Their construction company, Gus Robinson Developments, based in Hartlepool, builds affordable homes for rent and also for market sale, subsidising the social parts of the business.

“The vast majority of our tenants are in employment and have very busy lives,” said Ian. “We’re also aware that people’s lifestyles are changing and most don’t want to live on the edge of town anymore. They want to be able to walk out of the door and get to things quicker, and on foot.”

The team at Thirteen is excited to be working with the council and Middlesbrough mayor Andy Preston in plans for regenerating the areas around the centre of town.

“Local authorities have been really brave about how they are going to reinvent the area,” said Ian. “With funds now in place we can work together and make these plans happen, to reinvigorate the area with leisure and new businesses, and of course with fantastic new housing.”

Thirteen have had apartments in the Boho area of Middlesbrough for ten years and are due to have 40 more handed over in May.

“The apartments are very spacious and modern and will be let at a good rental, well below the market price,” said Ian, who knows there is a high demand to live close to a town centre with a train station and amenities nearby.

“Some areas are written off because of a certain perception, when in fact they just need a different offer, a different type of accommodation and people will come back.”

Ian feels the same about Thirteen’s developments in Gresham and Grove Hill.

“Gresham and Grove Hill both got hit by the 2008-10 recession,” he said. “With Gresham, people were relocated and houses demolished and it was hoped something would come back in its place. It’s taken a lot longer than hoped but we’ve got there.

“A lot of people who left or were relocated want to come back. They have family ties and memories or they work close by.

“Since announcing or build 18 months ago, we already have a waiting list for the new houses.”

Grove Hill’s planning permission has only recently been received.

“Grove Hill was once was a thriving community which had its challenges, but now it’s ready for a real comeback,” said Ian.

“We did a first phase there a couple of years ago and that went really well.

“The next phases is for 296 homes and it’s a really lovely scheme. It will put back something that was taken away and I’m really excited about that, as are the people who left the area and who are now longing to come back.”

With the good fortune being enjoyed by Teesside at the moment, Ian is looking forward to helping more people find their forever homes.

“I’m hoping the good fortune snowballs,” he smiled. “At the end of the day we need people to pay their rent because that’s what pays for further development.

“A successful Tees Valley helps Thirteen and a successful Thirteen helps the Tees Valley. It’s a win-win.”