The ups and downs of levelling up

By Jerry Gilbert · 4 February 2022


The Government published its Levelling Up White Paper this week and people have been quick to try to pour over the 300-page document and comment.

The recognition in the white paper that good quality housing contributes significantly to the wellbeing and health of a community is to be welcomed as is the recognition that construction and the zero-carbon agenda contributes to local employment opportunities and supports the local economy. For the social housing sector none of this is new.

The scrapping of the ‘80/20 rule’ which leads to 80% of government funding for housing supply being directed at ‘maximum affordability areas’ – in practice, London and the Southeast, results in 1.8 billion brownfield funding being diverted to transforming brownfield sites in the North and Midlands. Local influence through Metro Mayors and local communities in investment decisions is again highlighted, shifting the emphasis from quantity to quality.

Improving energy efficiency through retrofitting the existing housing stock is key to levelling up. Reaching net zero and reducing fuel poverty is already an aspiration for social landlords, however, there is no new funding for retrofit for what is a massive challenge.

White Paper, Mission 10 states:

By 2030, renters will have a secure path to ownership with the number of first-time buyers increasing in all areas; and the government’s ambition is for the number of non-decent rented homes to have fallen by 50%, with the biggest improvements in the lowest performing areas.

Unfortunately, this focus on improving standards of private sector renting and on home ownership is not complemented with a similar mission for boosting the affordable rented supply, nor for addressing issues of housing for older persons and the increasing social and wellbeing challenges that an ageing population brings for social landlords.

We know there are further White Papers coming and it is easy to focus on the omissions and the inevitable criticism that the “Levelling Up” White Paper is high on rhetoric and low on detail, which is true.  However, in its twelve missions The White Paper has articulated ambitions and a shift in focus which should be embraced – the challenges now are the availability of funds and the mechanics to make them happen. 

Jerry Gilbert


One of the founders of ARK Consultancy, Jerry has more than 30 years’ experience in housing and considerable senior management experience in both the private and social sectors. He specialises in performance improvement and project delivery on complex regeneration and new build programmes.

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