Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Dan's housing plan

At the risk of repeating and repeating myself I cannot resist pointing followers again to what I regard as the most important evidence/references for those involved in the debate or discussions about the supply of new houses in the UK.  I can see no reason to question the research lying behind these publications and would suggest that those intent on repeating and repeating the claim that there is a need for over 200,000 new dwellings a year temper this message unless and until they can identify evidence based flaws in the following.

According to ONS figures the number of homes in the UK which are measured as over-crowded is about 3%, while the percentage of those  with one and more often two or more spare bedrooms is over 75%.  Not all  bedrooms are ‘spare’ but at only one per dwelling that would amount to a surplus of over 20 million rooms, or the equivalent of 10 million 2 bedroomed dwellings which is 50 times the suggested annual need for 200,000 new dwellings. 

The Intergenerational Foundation’s 2016 report Unlocking England’s Hidden Homes reckons on 4.4 million dwellings being ripe for sub-division which enables ‘down-sizing in place’ and would provide the equivalent of 20 years supply of new homes in existing settlements, using existing infrastructure, providing more customers for existing pubs and bus services and without building on agricultural land. 

Incidentally many of these ‘new’ dwellings would sit within the HAPPI3 family of housing suitable for the elderly.  If all the new built dwellings that our resources )land, capital, materials and labour) would allow (say 300,000), this would not meet the need for attractive downsizing options for the over 65s, which will soon comprise half the population.  If the Government wants to expel the mostly young and productive migrants back to EU countries in ‘exchange’ for the 3 million elderly Britons currently living and using health services in Europe, then this date will come even faster.

Finally, the report by Oxford Economics (OE) commissioned as evidence for the Redfern Review into the decline in home ownership (and other work by Ian Mulheirn its author) explains why supply will never be sustainable (my word) until the “Objectively Assessed Need” for housing takes into account the separate markets for homes; the one to provide shelter (and creature comforts) and the other as a property investment.

Dan’s housing plan brings these 4 reports together with the objective of providing the third kind of housing not described by OE, the opportunity, indeed privilege that comes with a house or flat, of living in and becoming part of a neighbourhood.   This rather ambitious plan starts with humble beginnings. Development plans (local plans and neighbourhood plans) set out the policies which will require all new dwellings to be a maximum of 2.5 bedrooms (no more than 2 proper and one spare).  All will have a shower room on the ground floor (if more than two storeys).  Policies will encourage sub-divisions of existing stock subject to energy upgrades.  Details of the designs will ensure a variety of building types; but mostly terraced or arranged in apartment blocks (to maximise garden space and energy efficiency).  There will also be communal indoor and outdoor space managed by the housing association and/or management company of which the owners will be members.  This could include guest accommodation unless some of the larger dwellings were designed so that the ‘extra’ space was self-contained and easily lettable.  Neighbourhood coaches (initially employed by housing associations where the benefits could be measured (ie low/no repairs, low turnover, vacancies, arrears) could assist in building networks amongst the new and existing houses/neighbours.  Finally (check recent blog posts on air quality), private car ownership would be replaced by membership of car clubs providing access to a variety of Ultra Low Emission Vehicles powered from the PV on the roofs of all the buildings in the area.

This is an “either I’m mad or they are” moment, given the advantages of setting this course for housing policy and the likely failure of alternatives.

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