Out-Law News 1 min. read

Councils 'underestimating housing need', says trade body

Local authorities could be underestimating housing need by up to 30% due to a "rigid adherence" to Government projections published in April 2013, according to a the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI).

Research conducted by the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI), which represents professional planners in the UK, has found that the Department for Communities and Local Government's (DCLG) latest official household projection figures can inaccurately reflect local housing needs.

An RTPI-commissioned report (20-page / 891KB PDF) found that councils could be underestimating housing need by up to 30% due to a "rigid adherence" to DCLG's household projection figures .

According to a report in Inside Housing, RTPI president Cath Ranson said: "The research emphasises the need for local councils to treat Government household projects as a starting point, not an end point when calculating how much housing they need to plan for in their area. A rigid adherence to household projection figures may lead to too few houses being built in some areas and an oversupply in others".

The latest official household projection figures, which take into account the 2011 census results, suggested a fall in the need for housing, and that average household size did not fall as had been expected, but stayed constant. The RTPI's report said that this is because the 2011 census results were influenced by the economic downturn, the impact of a long period of poor housing affordability, and increased international immigration.

"This raises the questions of whether planners should assume that household size will remain stable or resume the previous falling trend," the report said. "If what has happened over the last ten years is indicative of a new long term trend then for most authorities housing requirements are likely to be lower than suggested by DCLD's 2008-based household projects - as the latest 2011-based DCLG projections suggest. If, however, the 2011 census results are just a short term departure from previous trends then housing requirements are likely to be closer to or even higher than the 2008-based projections. For some authorities the difference between the two scenarios could be 30% or more".

The RTPI has called for the Government to prepare 'sensitivity analysis' at the local authority level so that users can gauge the amount of uncertainty that they need to plan for, as well as publishing a in a 'simple and accessible form the past and projected data for the key drivers of change' - births, deaths and flows in from and out to the rest of the UK and flows in from and out to the rest of the world – to show how this relates to what has happened in the last 10 years and what is projected to happen in the future.

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