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The Housing Market Renewal Pathfinder Programme – A Drop of Keynes in a Neo-Liberal Ocean?

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The Housing Market Renewal (HMR) Pathfinder programme was the most ambitious and controversial area-based housing initiative launched by the UK government over the past 30 years. It was introduced as a means of supporting radical intervention in 'weaker' housing markets, based predominantly in the North of England. The programme, launched in 2003, was assailed by criticisms from the outset. An unlikely alliance of heritage lobbyists and critical urban theorists condemned HMR plans to 'modernize' local housing markets as an exercise in state-sponsored gentrification, displacing working-class households in the search for more attractive 'new urbanists'. HMR programme included demolition of existing homes, partly to modify the structure of local housing supply. Elsewhere many fairly conventional housing improvement schemes were implemented, sustained by an additional £2 billion of government investment. The HMR programme was curtailed peremptorily in 2010 by the Coalition government, partly justified by reference to the earlier critiques. This paper considers the criticisms made of HMR, and suggests that overall the programme made modest improvements to the housing stock in the Pathfinder areas but inevitably fell short in reviving local housing markets, especially since the 2008 recession. The prospects for any future housing-based area regeneration programme in England being developed along the lines of HMR now seem bleak indeed.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: July 1, 2015

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  • Built Environment is published quarterly in March, June, September and December. With an emphasis on crossing disciplinary boundaries and providing global perspective, each issue focuses on a single subject of contemporary interest to practitioners, academics and students working in a wide range of disciplines. Issues are guest-edited by established international experts who not only commission contributions, but also oversee the peer-reviewing process in collaboration with the Editors.

    Subject areas include: architecture; conservation; economic development; environmental planning; health; housing; regeneration; social issues; spatial planning; sustainability; urban design; and transport. All issues include reviews of recent publications.

    The journal is abstracted in Geo Abstracts, Sage Urban Studies Abstracts, and Journal of Planning Literature, and is indexed in the Avery Index to Architectural Publications.

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