FOI request reveals EXACTLY how Medway Council has spent their Housing Infrastructure Fund allocation

You may recall how, back in January, it was announced in the media that despite a crisis in homebuilding, two thirds of the £4.2bn UK housebuilding fund remains unspent by local authorities.

Launched in 2017, the Housing Infrastructure Fund was created to help jump-start housebuilding by providing councils with grants for key infrastructure such as transport and utilities, but here we are seven years later and just £1.3bn (around 31%) of the pot has been spent.

So, why is this? Well, before looking into the whys, another point to consider is how fewer than 10% of the homes which were promised by the government have had work started on. This is because a number of schemes were withdrawn or had funding pulled.

Needless to say, the UK really is in crisis when it comes to housebuilding and the Financial Times commented, explaining that:

“Marcus Dixon, director of UK residential research at the real estate firm JLL, said that although the fund had been intended to “unlock housing delivery”, since then “rapidly rising build costs and an increased regulatory burden” had led developers to put schemes on hold.”

“Costs had risen by as much as 40 per cent since the pandemic, he said, so “schemes that had secured funding began to face shortfalls, in some cases in the tens of millions of pounds, which would need to be plugged for development to start as planned”.”

Whilst this is a national picture, what of Medway council we hear you ask!

Well, the first point to note is that in December, a total of £170m funding was pulled from the scheme. This funding was due to support vital infrastructure for 12,000 homes to be built on the Hoo Peninsula and has otherwise blown the scheme out of the water you can read Medway council’s statement on the project here.

The reason for this? Spiralling costs and Cllr Vince Maple explained how:

“The loss of HIF means we cannot fund and deliver the long needed all-important roads, public transport and environmental improvements ahead of new homes being built on the peninsula. This decision has implications for residents across the whole of Medway.”

“It risks undermining our commitment to delivering a Local Plan by 2025 and building new homes in the right places while creating sustainable healthy communities with the associated high-value employment prospects for Medway residents.”

When the headlines came out, we submitted a freedom of information request to Medway Council to find out how much of the Housing Infrastructure Fund was spent to date at a local level and thought we’d share the interesting data with you.

Looking at the report, Medway council has spent a total of £40.3m across 1,702 projects. You can download the full report from here, however we have also summarised the spend below.

If we look at the dates spend was made, we see that the majority of spend was made during 2021 and 2022.

If we look at the potential allocation of the £1.3bn spent across the UK, considering that the UK has 382 local authority areas Medway actually comes up fairly well as the potential total of £1.3bn if spent equally is £3.4m per local authority area – with Medway having spent just over £40m.

We'd be interested to hear your thoughts on this and the report provided by Medway council. We have struggled to glean too much in terms of other headlines from it than we have here, but it’s interesting to see nonetheless!

Looping back to the Hoo Peninsula scheme, this is one we will be keeping a close eye on for you!

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