The North is dead: time to move South?

Updated: 

Olympic stadiumTim Ireland/PA Wire/Press Association Images

A new report from think tank Policy Exchange, suggesting a solution to the affordable housing crisis in England, has been welcomed by ministers. This report calls for the selling of over-priced council housing, and reinvestment in cheaper social housing in the area.

However, lurking within it are references to a report published back in 2008, which suggested that cities in the North were dead and those seeking a better quality of life ought to be packing their bags. So does the government's enthusiasm for the latest report resurrect the threat of mass migration south?



The latest report

The Policy Exchange report out today on affordable social housing advocates the sale of over-priced social housing and says that the money should be used to build more affordable properties in the local area.

The idea is that when council houses and flats fall vacant, they should be assessed to see whether they are worth more than the local average for properties of that size. Those that are found to be expensive can then be sold, and the money used to build a larger number of cheaper properties close by.


The organisation is known to be close to the Conservative Party, and the Housing Minister's response was enthusiastic and positive - saying that it made sense.

Lurking within...

However, the authors also quote heavily from a previous report they had issued - one which said that the government's plans to regenerate the North were failing, and that it was time to move south.

The earlier report - issued back in 2008 - had suggested that rather than building lots of new housing in poorer areas with poorer employment prospects, they ought to focus on growing areas such as London, Oxford and Cambridge.

Migration to come?

So will the government be embracing the idea of mass migration from the North to the South too?

The good news is that the government rejected these notions out of hand back in 2008 when they were first raised. A spokeswoman for the Department for Communities and Local Government spokesperson said: "We totally disagree with the conclusions of this report."

Add to that the test case of East London, a massive regeneration opportunity in action. Early signs are that the Olympics have dramatically changed the fortunes of the area, and produced new employment prospects for the long term. Admittedly nowhere else has had quite the same level of funding, but it is a high-profile example of where change has been dramatic.

In the interim, funding is being made available for projects ranging from rail infrastructure to improving areas of cities from Salford to Birmingham.

A spokesman from Policy Exchange confirmed to AOL that the latest report was not encouraging relocation, and that in instances where it wasn't possible to build cheaper housing within a 30 mile radius of the expensive council properties, no properties would be sold.

So while the think tank's latest suggestions have been broadly welcomed, there's no sign that the government is ready to adopt a policy of the mass abandonment of the north.

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