Sajid Javid Photo
Department for Communities & Local Government Secretary Sajid Javid MP

New housing assessment method could be ‘inadequate’

Jessica Middleton-Pugh

The Government has proposed a standardised method for calculating local housing need, with Communities Secretary Sajid Javid calling the current process “an opaque mish-mash”. However, lobby group Housing the Powerhouse has said the new method would be “inadequate” for places such as Greater Manchester.

Last week Sajid Javid launched a public consultation into the proposed new method, and in a speech to the Houses of Parliament outlined the reasoning behind the approach.

He said that the country needs “a proper understanding of exactly how many homes are needed and where”.

“The existing system for determining this simply isn’t good enough,” he said. “It relies on assessments commissioned by individual authorities according to their own requirements, carried out by expensive consultants using their own methodologies.

“The result is an opaque mish-mash of different figures that are consistent only in their complexity.”

The new methodology is built around three aspects. It uses household growth projections from the Office of National Statistics, increases the number of homes needed in less affordable areas, but crucially for many areas, highlights that “due to the state of the housing market” some communities may have to expect housing targets which go “well beyond” what was previously agreed in Local Plans.

Where a Local Plan is less than five years old, Javid said this increase will be less than 40%, while if a plan is out of date, the figures could be an additional 40% on what was previously proposed.

According to Housing the Powerhouse, while a standardised method is a positive step, it is South-centric and could restrict growth in Northern locations.

James Stevens from the Home Builders Federation, speaking on behalf of Housing the Powerhouse, said: “We welcome the emergence of a standard method for working out how many homes are needed in regions across the country. A new method presents an opportunity for the Government to deliver on its objective to stimulate a step-change in housing delivery to tackle the housing crisis and move development plans forward.

“It is already clear that the draft methodology will boost the housing requirement in the South and East, while depressing it in the North and Midlands. This flies in the face of the wider Government policies such as the industrial strategy and Northern Powerhouse, which aim to rebalance the UK economy.

“The draft method sets a slightly lower minimum housing delivery in Greater Manchester than that suggested by the GMSF. It does not factor in job growth, fails to recognise affordable housing need and suggests that planning new homes to match economic growth and job creation is discretionary.

“If Greater Manchester is serious about addressing housing affordability, securing investment in better infrastructure and closing the economic gap with London, its leaders must recognise that the draft method is inadequate for Greater Manchester’s needs and make a positive choice to go for growth to fulfil its ambition to become a leading European and global city.”

Housing the Powerhouse is a lobbying group formed in response to the creation of the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework, and called for a larger housing target than that proposed in the draft. The GMSF was targeting 227,200 new homes to be built in the next 20 years, equating to around 11,250 homes a year, which Housing the Powerhouse wanted increased to 16,000.

However, Metro Mayor Andy Burnham is now spearheading a rewrite of the GMSF, and fresh details of the housing targets for the city region are not expected until after local elections in May 2018.

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Housing the Powerhouse should be ignored. As a lobby group made up of house builders, they’re not actually interested in increasing the supply of new housing, but increasing the amount of land allocated to housing in unsustainable but cheap-to-deliver locations. If their product was halfway decent and affordable this may be forgivable but as new houses tend to be both expensive and terrible quality, it’s safe to say they don’t have the interests of house buyers or the Northern Powerhouse at heart.

By Cynic

My palm heads to my face here. What an absolute Horlicks. Pickles gets rid of regional housing targets; the Government says “local communities know best” and should work out for themselves what their needs are; then authorities take this at face and try to formulate their own figures from a hodge-podge of government guidance. When they go through this difficult process up pops the new Minister to say “Ahhhh! We know think central planning is the way” and at a stroke undermines all the work that’s been done over the years since RDA’s and regional housing targets were abolished. A total shambles.

By Sceptic

“authorities take this at face and try to formulate their own figures from a hodge-podge of government guidance.”

You mean manipulate the figures so that the target is as low as possible?

By Nordyne

Seems to be logical that a single methodology is used to calculate housing need. I think its a good step forward and I agree with Cynic re. Housing the Powerhouse. Take their ramblings with a pinch of salt – they are looking for the largest allocations possible without much regard to providing well designed, spacious homes, which add to communities and the sustainability of our region. Most of the residential stock being produced by these big boys is utterly depressing.