The Olympic Park is an example of how housing is set to play a big part in rebuilding Britain’s strained economy, says Grant Shapps
Looking to the future
The development of the Olympic Park is just one example of how housing is set to play a big part in rebuilding Britain’s strained economy, says Grant Shapps
With the Olympics drawing to a close and the Paralympics just around the corner, the country - and the whole world - is enjoying a long-anticipated month of sporting excellence.
But for the country, London 2012 has always been about more than the games. When the competition’s over, the medals are awarded and all the athletes have checked out of the Olympic village, what happens next?
Underneath all the sporting excitement, we all know the country faces real economic challenges. The recent gross domestic product figures have clearly confirmed the need to continue our focus on the economy to avoid the problems of our European neighbours in Spain, Greece and elsewhere.
And while British tourism and business should be boosted in the weeks, months and even years to come thanks to London 2012, there is no such thing as a quick fix.
The prime minister knows this, and he has been absolutely clear that housing is centre stage in economic growth. That’s why the new communities that will be created in the Olympic Park after the games will play such a vital role in delivering a strong economic future.
In the coming years we will see the long-term Olympic legacy for London kick in with full force.
Stratford and London’s east end have already been transformed by the games, and when they come to an end we will be able to watch as the Olympic Park evolves from a worldwide sporting Mecca into five new living, breathing, communities.
Plans to transform the athletes’ village into around 2,800 homes - more than 1,300 of which will become social housing - are already in place and ready to start as soon as the games are over.
But this is just the beginning. When the full plans for the Olympic Park and athletes’ village are complete, we’re expecting to see more than 10,000 homes, with 40 per cent of those designed to be family homes and around a third providing vital affordable housing for the area.
Of course there is more to creating a community than building the homes, which is why the legacy communities’ scheme includes new schools and nurseries, three healthcare clinics, parkland, playgrounds and thousands of jobs in shops, offices, entertainment and tourist attractions will be created alongside.
In the future, the development of the park will be delivered through private investment - the Olympic village will be transformed into the first homes onsite by developers Qatari Diar and Delancey, alongside social housing from Triathlon Homes. Further down the line, other private developers, including Barratt, will also play a vital role in transforming the site and making it an attractive and affordable place to live.
And with the prospect of five new communities on the way, enterprising developers are now taking a keen interest in the surrounding areas - turning this former industrial wasteland into a bright new investment prospect.
This is just part of the wider housing drive across the country, but it’s a prime example of how we want to achieve economic growth without breaking the bank - by creating the conditions for local growth and attracting the private investment to deliver the homes this country needs. We’re embracing this principle across the board. Our affordable housing programme is set to exceed expectations and deliver up to 170,000 new homes over the next four years, with a total investment of £19.5 billion of which more than £14 billion is coming from private investors.
The get Britain building programme and growing places fund are unlocking stalled developments and local infrastructure across the country - a £1.3 billion investment to get private developers back on the move.
And the newbuy and firstbuy schemes are helping aspiring buyers get their feet onto and up the ladder - keeping the market moving and giving developers some space to breathe in a difficult economic climate.
Our determined work to get this country’s economy back on the right track will continue, with housing at its heart. The Olympic Games have offered an unprecedented opportunity to do this, creating entire communities from scratch and nurturing a once-forgotten part of London into the ideal conditions for growth and investment.
But it’s not something we can do alone. The private sector is absolutely vital to bringing our vision for a strong economic future to life, and the Olympic Park is a prime example of their investment at its very best.
Grant Shapps is housing minister and MP for Welwyn Hatfield