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Malthouse calls for “more, better, faster” as Gov ignore latest population stats

By Daniel Fryd, Senior Consultant

Government will not change its housing need targets despite official statistics predicting lower household growth than previously thought, it was confirmed last week.

In a consultation report launched at the end of last week, just before the Budget and its slew of other reports was released, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) set out its latest position on the standard methodology for calculating housing need. The 19-page consultation contained some fairly complex minor planning tweaks, but the main message was very clear: “lower household projections do not mean fewer houses need to be built.”

This will come as something of a blow to local authorities who have been dragging their heels on getting a local plan in place. Certain councils have been delaying their local plan agreement to meet the housing targets set out in the revised NPPF, in the hope that Government would revise down its housing target resulting from the new ONS figures.

Flawed figures

Back in July the ONS released 2016 household population statistics which suggested a drop in the projected population by 53,000 a year between 2018 and 2028. Areas such as Cambridge and Greater saw significant reductions.

To use these statistics to base house-building targets would be a mistake, the new MHCLG publication says however, and would only lead to fewer, larger households living in more expensive homes built in the wrong places.

Running until 7 December 2018, the consultation sets out how Government and councils should ignore the new projections and use the 2014 statistics as a basis for calculating housing need instead, resulting in a minimal change to housing targets.

What now?

The consultation proposes three key changes:

  • To set out how “2014-based data will provide the demographic baseline for assessment of local housing need”.
  • To clarify that ” the 2016-based projections do not qualify as an exceptional circumstance that justifies a departure from the standard methodology”.
  • In the longer term, to “review the formula with a view to establishing a new method” by the time the next projections are issued”.

Housing minister Kit Malthouse said: “We must tackle the historic shortage of new homes and restore the dream of ownership for the next generation.

“To do this we must build more and better homes, faster, and are committed to delivering 300,000 homes a year by the mid-2020s. These proposals maintain this commitment and crucially give stability and certainty for local authorities, so they can get on with the job of building the homes their communities need.”

Once MHCLG have digested the responses to the consultation and produced a final note in the new year, the move should put to bed the suggestion that revised household projection statistics mean lower targets for housebuilding should be introduced. There has been a lot of talk about hitting the 300,000 new homes a year point. Sticking to the 2016 projections will help make that a reality.

Read more about the latest planning news:

  • Onwards and upwards for extensions? – Read more
  • TCPA proposes 13 steps to deliver truly affordable housing – Read more
  • Government lifts HRA borrowing cap – Read more
  • Letwin Lets Rip in Build Out Review – Read more
  • Budget 2018 Special – Read more