14 July 2016
Mike Ashworth, Planning Associate Director in Leeds, reacts to the latest Sub-National Household Projections (SNHP) and asks: how reliable have they become?
The latest Sub-National Household Projections (SNHP) were released on Tuesday, showing a projected growth of 210,000 households per year from 2014-2039. The forecasts suggest an increase in population of 16% and an even greater increase in households of 23%, due to a continued reduction in household size.
The report stresses however, that the results "show the household numbers that would result if the assumptions based in previous demographic trends in the population and rates of household formation were to be realised in practice". In other words, there are many factors, such as post-Brexit policy and immigration impacts, not taken into account in producing these figures. Moreover, it is common ground that the need for new housing is at least 240,000 dwellings per annum. So it is clear that the projections tell only part of the story in terms of new housing need across the country.
Given the political confusion and unpredictability of the next few years, are these figures now further away than ever from a clear and reliable prediction on household growth? Whilst the Planning Practice Guidance (PPG) stresses that these are merely a "starting point" for calculating Objectively Assessed Need (OAN), they remain the only credible starting point leading to the housing requirement within a Local Plan. Does further weight, and resource, need to be given to understanding latent need and demand for new housing which may not be reflected in these figures? Market demand is still severely constrained, particularly for the young, by rising house prices, access to mortgages and an ability to save for a deposit. Are we in danger of simply providing homes for those that can already afford them, rather than those in genuine need?
Is this evidence gathering still best carried out at a local level through Strategic Housing Market Assessments (SHMA) or do we need greater clarity and evidence at a national level? The danger remains that we are simply giving weight to projections which merely reflect the under supply of housing in the past decade.
You can get in touch with Mike Ashworth at: firstname.lastname@example.org