After 6 months worrying, it finally happened last Sunday. Yes with housing consents and starts rapidly rising we heard the first arguments that the housing crisis is now solving itself, therefore no need for any nasty spending increases or unpopular tweaks to planning policy.
It came on BBC Sunday Politics when Andrew Neill quizzed Emma Reynolds (Shadow Housing Minister) in relation to the recently published Lyons Review. If you look at the chart below you can see why.
The Lyons Review has a target of 200k new homes a year, c40K less than the generally accepted need of 240K. If current trends continue we should hit 240K consents a year in 2017. If the trend line for starts continues we should be at 200K new homes a year by 2019; 1 year earlier than The Lyons Review target of 2020.
Luckily for all of us who see the scale of the crisis close up, Emma Reynolds gave a stout and skilful defence of both the need for change and the recommendations in Sir Michael’s report.
As a planner I know that consents data is hugely misleading. To illustrate, in Q2 of 2012 there were c24,000 consents on c800 sites. In Q2 of 2014 there were c62,000 consents, also on c800 sites. The current trend is for bigger sites not more sites. And those of us that actually deliver homes know a site for 50 units does not necessarily sell more homes in a week than a site for 150 units. Housebuilders call a site an outlet, and what the industry needs is more outlets to sell more homes. Extra units but with no increase in outlets can assist security of supply but doesn’t, in itself, guarantee increased new homes output
With affordability worsening, and homelessness increasing in most areas this is absolutely the wrong time to think that the crisis is easing or solving itself. Prioritising housing delivery in both funding and policy terms is needed more than ever. The Lyons Review is a very good way to start that conversation.