By Bea Patel, TLE Property Editor and Director of Shop for an Agent
The youngest city in Europe, with 50 per cent of its population under the age of 30, Birmingham is a city full of drive, ambition and entrepreneurialism. This is already clear from the city’s booming life science, creative and tech industries.
Now, Birmingham is lining up to show Britain’s cities how to future-proof against the coming economic uncertainty when the UK finally begins the formal process of leaving the EU.
Birmingham’s attractions as a place to live and work mean its population is booming. According to Census data, the city’s population grew by nearly 100,000 in the decade to 2015, a 9.5 per cent increase. With people continuing to be drawn to the city, planners believe that 80,000 new housing units will be required by 2030.
Birmingham City Council leader, John Clancy has taken matters in hand and has spent a week courting investors in China and Hong Kong. The trade mission has yielded impressive results, with Chinese property developer Country Garden pledging to invest £2 billion in Birmingham’s economy over the coming years. Housing stock and projects related to the HS2 railway have been identified as top priorities.
Councillor Clancy sees Chinese interest in Birmingham as a key means by which the city will secure its economy (so far as possible) to weather the Brexit storm. He said: “There may be a downturn next year, or the year after, there might even be a recession and I want to ensure, like London did last time, that we come out of the recession ahead of the rest. For that, we need to have the capital ready to come in and projects ready to go.”
Britain leaving the EU may be a painful process for the country’s economy, but investment from overseas can help soften the blow. Pre-Brexit vote figures from the Department for International Trade have shown that the UK is the most popular destination in Europe for foreign direct investment, with the 2015/16 financial year seeing 2,213 inward investment projects secured, an 11 per cent rise on 2014/15. It’s Birmingham’s hope that the continuation of such investment will ease the Brexit process.
Even before the Councillor’s visit to China and Hong Kong, Chinese interest in Birmingham investments was already high. Ray Withers, CEO of Property Frontiers, comments: “Birmingham is a city packed with potential. It’s not just HS2 that’s drawing investors in. There are some fantastic regeneration projects underway, like the Birmingham Smithfield masterplan, which will see a vast area of the city centre brought up to date, creating a vibrant, modern area for Birmingham’s markets. Chinese investors are keen to be involved in the future of such a leading city and we’ve seen interest in everything from flats to football as part of this trend.”
Property Frontiers’ latest Birmingham development, The Divine Collection, has piqued the interest of Chinese investors. So far, 50 per cent of Property Frontiers’ apartments in the building have been reserved by Chinese buyers. Priced from £165,000, apartments offer buy-to-let investors the best that the development has to offer – a 483 sqm roof terrace with city views in the heart of Digbeth, Birmingham’s most on-trend location.