Thursday, November 29, 2018

A proper analysis of the housing shortage

I have no hesitation in recommending the report from Residential Analysts which explains why the ‘housing crisis’ should be seen as many different problems affecting all parts of the country in different ways.

The question does arise as to why local authorities have bought into the relatively crude analysis on which the Strategic Housing Market assessments have been prepared and why the DHCLG has not sought to emphasise the need for local responses to housing needs, based on the figures reproduced in the RA report?

One interesting figure is the 9million ‘spare’ bedrooms. This is the equivalent of about 4.5million two bedroomed dwellings.  Taking the Government estimate of demand at 300,000 new dwellings per year (and average household size of about 2.6), there is potential for about 15 years supply without any new building.  It would be seriously delusional to expect all this space to be magically available in the places (ie where there are jobs) and in the form that could be used ( eg as rented rooms or conversions into flats).  However, the carbon cost of new building (50% being embodied at substantial completion and before occupation), the prevalence of fuel poverty, and the need for the housing sector to be net carbon zero by about 2030 points to residential sub-divisions (including custom-splitting) as a serious if not the main contender.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Zero carbon homes are exceptional

For those unfamiliar with the way in which appeals against refusals (or onerous conditions) are handled a page from the Planning Inspectorate web site can be found here.
This appeal is interesting for a number of reasons.  A net zero carbon house is being allowed in a location proscribed by policies in both local and neighbourhood plans.  The justification for granting permission is firstly the 'tilted balance' and expression used by the supreme court when considering the effect of para 11 in the 2018 National Planning Policy Framework where the district council has failed to provide a 5 year housing land supply rendering the development plan as 'out of date' and carrying less weight. Secondly the inspector found the zero carbon design to be 'exceptional'. Although the inspector did not say so, this is the term used at para 79(e) of the NPPF that can justify the building of an 'isolated home in the countryside'. It may be that in this case the location was not 'isolated 'in the normal use of the word and the zero carbon design was just an 'other material consideration' to weigh against the policies in the development plan. 
It is important to remember that planning decisions do not create 'precedents' in a legal sense.  However, inspectors stand in the shoes of the Secretary of State (for Housing, Communities and Local Government) and decision letters can reasonably be cited in support of similar proposals. The Courts have ruled that consistency in decision-making is a material consideration and local planning authorities and inspectors should provide adequate reasons why apparently similar cases are being treated differently.
The lesson for those thinking of building or commissioning a new zero carbon home is that the absence of a 5 year land supply represents an opportunity to build in both isolated (citing NPPF para 79(e)) and in less isolated (see above) locations as a material consideration to further tilt the balance against a restrictive but  out-of-date development plan. Clearly a zero carbon home will only be 'exceptional' while the house building industry continues to supply sub-standard dwellings.