National housing review – how many homes?

An independent report for Devon CPRE shows the Government is planning for almost twice as many new homes as England needs over the next twenty years.

The Government is planning to build 85% more new homes than England needs over the next two decades – a staggering over-provision of more than three million new-build properties. That’s the shock finding of the latest report on national housing need, produced on behalf of the countryside charity Devon CPRE by social research consultancy Opinion Research Services.

The ORS report ‘How Many Homes? Reviewing the National Housing Need for England’ examines the impact of the Government’s proposals to modify the formula (or algorithm) that councils in England must use to calculate ‘local housing need’. This new formula would result in a projected housing need of 3.37 million homes for England over the next decade, based on current data being used for every local area. Councils must use these same figures for local plans beyond 2030 – essentially planning for another 3.37 million homes by 2040.

The report concludes that these calculations would plan for over a million more homes than are needed by 2030, and almost another two million too many in the decade to 2040.

Dr Phil Bratby, Devon CPRE spokesman, says: “We are seeing green fields across the UK concreted over at an alarming rate for sprawling new housing estates, but this new report shows that we don’t need anything like the number of new houses the Government tells us we do. Over the next twenty years, we are in danger of building three million homes too many because the proposed Government formula for calculating housing need uses a seriously flawed methodology. This independent study is proof of that.

‘We do need to build more homes to meet projected household growth and to address the existing backlog. We know many young adults can’t afford to live independently from their parents, but most of the homes being built are neither genuinely affordable nor sustainable nor in the right locations. Where’s the sense in that?”

The Office for National Statistics projects a growth of 1.6 million households by 2030. This is without counting the growing number of adult children who continue to live with their parents, which has increased by around 900,000 in England over the last twenty years. Assuming all of these young people could afford to live independently, not all would live alone. So, even accounting for past housing shortfalls, around 600,000 extra households would form, in addition to the projected growth.

Jonathan Lee of Opinion Research Services, which produced ‘How Many Homes?’, says: “Based on the latest evidence, up to 2.3 million new homes need to be provided in England over the next decade (230,000 per year, which is about the number delivered last year); well below the 3.37 million new homes identified by the Government formula. Official figures project 1.43 million new households will form in the decade to 2040, and extra households from the past shortfall don’t need to be counted again. The Government, however, is planning for another 3.37 million new homes during that decade – a massive over-provision of almost two million dwellings between 2030 and 2040.”

‘How Many Homes?’ follows a ground-breaking ORS report ‘Devon Housing Needs Evidence’ commissioned by the Devon branch of CPRE in 2018, which also challenged the basis of Government housing policy. Both studies conclude that the Conservative Government’s commitment to building 300,000 new homes a year is based on a woeful lack of substantiated rationale and represents a significant over-provision of new homes for the projected population, both here in Devon and across the UK.

This essential report is available to all members and member organisations of Devon CPRE. Non-members can buy a copy or get one free by joining. Full details on the website: www.cpredevon.org.uk

Ben Fox

Author: Ben Fox

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