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25/07/2019

Standard method not helping to deliver government’s housing ambitions

Words: Laura Edgar
Housing development / Shutterstock: 184434026

The method for calculating housing need does not provide enough homes for the government to meet its target of delivering 300,000 homes a year, research suggests.

Planning consultancy Lichfields has assessed the ‘standard method’ to calculate the minimum number of homes each council should plan for in order for the government to meet its target.

It was introduced in the updated National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) last year.

For Lichfields, it being ‘minimum’, is key. To deliver 300,000 homes a year, the government needs to deliver more than the minimum, as this will deliver only 273,000 homes.

Lichfields acknowledges that “it is early days”, but says its research highlights the “warning signs that plans are not currently setting out to deliver what is needed”.

Above Standard? Plans for Housing Under the New NPPF identifies 64 authorities with submitted or draft plans being prepared under the new NPPF: 34 per cent are doing more than the standard method, 16 per cent are doing less, and 50 per cent are matching it.

Of those authorities that are planning for more homes, 41 per cent cite job and economic growth as a reason for doing so.

However, the report finds that some individual authorities within areas such as Greater Manchester and Oxfordshire cannot meet their standard method figure but are proposing to redistribute this to other authorities within their strategic plan areas.

The report says the three Northern regions combined are expected to see an increase of 2,100 homes (13 per cent) compared with the minimum, which is partially offset by authorities in the least affordable areas that are planning for less.

In the South East and the East of England, the report notes that the standard method could lead to net reductions of 900 homes (6 per cent).

If these regional variations were replicated, an increase of 5.4 per cent in homes delivered could be achieved outside London.

The capital, though, Lichfields explains, is a problem. The Mayor of London’s current target would mean an annual shortfall of 11,000 homes, which requires an uplift of between 14 per cent and 20 per cent from elsewhere to deliver 300,000. Should London continue delivering at its current rate (27,500 homes), the total delivery figure would be 234,500 homes. The rest of the country would need to exceed the standard method by 39 per cent to compensate.

Matthew Spry, senior director at Lichfields, said: “At this very early stage, the signals indicate that emerging plans are not doing what will be necessary to achieve the 300,000 per annum ambition.

“Many of the regions where the new standard method is aimed at addressing housing shortfall – and the regions with the greatest problem of affordability – are not currently matching the minimum starting point.

“There are clear benefits in having a single, simple method for local housing need as a starting point, and many local authorities have grasped the nettle and engaged with it. But success – as it is currently defined – relies on many more areas doing much, much more, and quickly.

“There are warning signs here that plans are not currently setting out to deliver what will be needed to match the government’s housebuilding ambitions.”

Image credit | Shutterstock

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