Housing Delivery Test 2021

By Michael HardwareDirector of Planning and Property

The 2021 housing delivery test results were published on Friday by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC). The test period covers the last three financial years, so from 2018 to 2021 with the housing need based on the 2014 household projection figures produced by ONS (Office for National Statistics).

The results showed a mixed bag of delivery across the country with the Home Counties, in particular Essex, Hertfordshire and Kent, performing poorly.

The worst was Southend-on Sea with just 31% of its housing need delivered. It was closely followed by Epping Forest, Worthing and Epsom & Ewell on 35%, and Tandridge on 38%. Any planning authority falling below 75% of its target threshold is subject to the NPPF’s “Presumption in Favour of Sustainable Development”.

Many councils, however, argue that it has little or no control over when developers build new homes, accusing many of ‘landbanking’ in order to maximise prices. The landbanking argument has largely been proved to be wrong, not least by the Government’s own commission into the subject. According to Lichfields, many of the councils not achieving the 75% threshold are also unable to demonstrate a Five Year Housing Land Supply, and around a half of the authorities that fail are significantly constrained by the green belt.

Councils are also questioning the reliance on the 2014, saying they are out of date. New figures published by the ONS, also last week, revise various projections downwards. The 2020 figures see the UK population plateauing at just over 70million in the middle of the century, with births continuing to fall and, surprisingly, deaths increasing. Net migration is expected to also be steady at around 200,000 per year.

But does this mean we don’t actually need the level of new homes the Government says and councils are being unfairly punished? One Oxfordshire council has decided it doesn’t and has slashed its housing requirement figure being used within its local plan review, and there could be around 50 other authorities which could do the same. It will be interesting to see what the inspector’s view is.

The Government’s policy is not only addressing projected housing need but also the decades of under-delivery previously. That is why we have an over-heated property market with significant affordability issues affecting those on lower incomes. Younger generations also have to wait far longer to get on the housing ladder.

So no, those councils looking to slash their housing numbers need to understand they will be failing their residents by continuing to not properly meet the housing needs of the population.

DLUHC is currently maintaining its housebuilding policy and is bound to ensure councils do likewise. But there are growing political opposition to this level of housebuilding, especially is the rural Conservatives strongholds in the south.