The Brownfield Housing Fund was allocated to West Yorkshire as part of its devolution deal.
It allows West Yorkshire Combined Authority to provide grants to developers to build housing on long vacant brownfield sites in areas where “market failure” has meant few are willing to invest.
This could be because the cost of developing the land would be higher than the income the developer would receive.
But many of the recent grants have been awarded to housing projects in central Leeds, an area that has seen huge amounts of development in recent years.
Despite Bradford having large amounts of empty sites and derelict buildings, only four grants have been awarded for the District.
West Yorkshire Mayor Tracy Brabin has blamed the strict constraints placed on the fund for the Leeds centric spending, and has called for a meeting with Levelling Up Minister Michael Gove to try and free up the cash to be spent elsewhere in West Yorkshire.
To qualify for support from the fund, schemes need to be completed by March 2025, and meet a certain “benefit cost ratio” – meaning the future homes need to generate a certain level of income compared to what was spent on the site.
Previous meetings of West Yorkshire Combined Authority have heard that the cost condition meant sites in areas of low property values, such as areas of Bradford, were unlikely to qualify for the cash.
At a meeting of the Authority on Thursday, members approved providing £10m of Brownfield Housing Fund cash towards over 800 homes in the South Bank area of Leeds.
These include an 11 storey apartment building and a development of over 300 homes on a mill site, a scheme dubbed Sky Gardens.
Since the scheme was introduced just four projects have been awarded funding.
Grants have been given to two Incommunities projects that involve building family homes on former high rise sites – in Bingley and off Manchester Road.
The redevelopment of Galem House in Goitside and conversion of a building on Canal Road into apartments are the other two Bradford schemes to be awarded funding.
At the meeting Ms Brabin informed members she had written to Micheal Gove calling for a meeting to discuss the issue.
Councillor Silvia Dacre of Calderdale Council said in her District finding sites that met the criteria for funding was “extremely challenging.” She added: “Anything that can be done to enable us to have more flexibility to build on Brownfield sites is welcomed.”
Ms Brabin added: “If we want to level up the country we need to level up our region as well, and we need to be allowed to do that.”
Ms Brabin’s letter to Michael Gove says: “The constraints placed on the fund (i.e. the benefit cost ratio of 1, and start on site by March 2025) restricts the number of sites we can assist, thus reducing supply of homes in areas where new homes are desperately needed.
“This month, four projects have sought approval through our assurance process, which are all based in the Leeds area.
“Across the programme, there is a disproportionate number of projects across the Leeds area compared to the other four local authority areas in West Yorkshire. Due to the difficulty of achieving a BCR level of 1, the other areas in West Yorkshire are not benefiting from much needed homes and, therefore, levelling up.
“The target date of March 2025 excludes a number of projects that require funding to unlock barriers to development, and constrains our ability to achieve longer term regeneration objectives which the BHF can contribute to.
“The majority of brownfield land in West Yorkshire is in private ownership, and therefore the Combined Authority is working hard with the private sector to bring these sites forward. However, the tight timescale restricts the number of sites and ultimately homes we can assist through the BHF.
“Given the capacity of brownfield land in West Yorkshire, there is opportunity to deliver significantly more homes, and I would welcome further funding, with greater flexibility, to drive forward our brownfield delivery.
“With truly devolved funding, we can create homes in the right places and kickstart regeneration, thus achieving much needed levelling up across the whole region, not just in the Leeds area.”