The West Midlands region is probably the largest property market in the UK outside London. So we won't attempt to review it all in one go but instead break it up into three manageable instalments. In this first report we will look at the city of Birmingham and the immediate area itself, before moving on to the Black Country and then the Coventry and Warwickshire area in upcoming reports.
The city of Birmingham, with a population of 1.1m, is the most populous and economically significant part of the West Midlands. It encompasses both the city centre, suburban and rural fringes and abuts the adjacent 'Black Country' boroughs of Wolverhampton, Dudley, Sandwell and Walsall, plus Solihull and Coventry to the east, creating a population centre of 2.7m people. The city itself comprises both deprived areas and more affluent areas like Sutton Coldfield which, with the adjacent borough of Solihull, rank in the top ten least deprived areas in the UK.
Birmingham was the UK's fastest growing regional city in the 2000s. The latest ONS forecasts say the city could grow considerably by 18.5%, or 200,000 residents, by 2039.
As the original 'workshop of the world' Birmingham's economy was historically centred around heavy manufacturing. The city is still the UK's largest single engineering and manufacturing centre (these industries employ around 100,000 people) but services are increasingly important. City centre employment is heavily dependent on services particularly banking, accountancy, insurance, law (around 500 law firms have offices in the city) and retailing - the city centre is second only to London's Oxford street for shopper footfall.
The city is one of the main centres in the UK for overseas companies locating in the UK (around 1,190 have offices here) and for foreign direct investment (FDI). The Greater Birmingham and Solihull LEP (Local Enterprise Partnership) says that in 2014-15 the city attracted more FDI projects (73) than any other LEP area, with 20% coming from the US. A further 81 FDI schemes have been agreed in 2015-16.