Need and Want in the Housing Crisis

Are we getting the houses we need or the dwellings we want? In a recent survey of affordable housing, CPRE found that where developers appealed (23) against the number of affordable houses they were required to provide, most (17) were granted and a total of 478 affordable houses were lost. At the national level, a similar picture is revealed with only 55% of affordable housing in rural areas being delivered.
There are three categories of housing need if that is the right word. Social Housing is normally available to rent from Local Authorities and Housing associations and is intended for people on low income who are in housing need and are unable to provide suitable accommodation from their own resources. (ref Shelter). The rents in this sector are usually between 40 – 60% of market rents. It is a secure tenancy, potentially for life.

Affordable Housing is a little different and is defined by the government as “social rented, affordable rented and intermediate housing provided to specified eligible households whose needs are not met by the market”. Most of this housing is also rented at 65 – 80% of market rents and it is not as secure as social housing. In addition, ‘intermediate housing’ is available through shared ownership schemes. This allows people to buy a share of a home and rent the rest. You can gradually increase your share, or equity, in the property to own it outright.

Housing need can be measured. It can be assessed from the people who come forward and are identified as in need. This task is undertaken by Local Authorities (Cheshire East) and published as the Strategic housing market assessment (SHMA). The current one for Bunbury was produced in 2013. Here is a copy.
However, a great deal of confusion occurs around the terms ‘need’ and ‘want’;. The government NPPF (National Planning Policy Framework) confuses both these terms, as this quote shows:
‘Need’ as referring to ‘the scale and mix of housing and the range of tenures that is likely to be needed in the housing market area over the plan period – and should cater for the housing demand of the area and identify the scale of housing supply necessary to meet this need’
They then go on to measure progress as ‘sustainable development’ whether affordable or otherwise. In this post, I want to make a distinction between these two terms as they have very different implications for housing provision and the solution to the housing crisis.

Housing DEMAND is not the same as NEED. We can define demand, as ‘the housing people choose to live in that reflects their preferences and ability to pay’;. So the demand depends upon things such as wealth, cost of mortgages, ease of selling existing properties, and aspirations. Clearly developers are more focused on this sector of the housing market. A recent survey by the big estate agents Savills found in London the properties being built in the next 5 years were overwhelmingly above £450K and very little was intended to be built at lower prices despite the huge ‘need’ for such dwellings. Where social and affordable housing is needed, ‘executive’ homes are built instead.

The largest number of new households are young. Between 2011 and 2031 the number of new households is 363,000 per annum (DCLG white paper 2017, on the TPS website, 25 to under 45 by2031). This group relies on the cheaper housing to rather than the new stock designed mainly for those ‘moving up’;. As a result, this age group (25- under 45) has had to resort to the private rented market.

What is the situation in Bunbury? Based on the SHMA 2013 data 75.6% of dwellings are owner-occupied, 15.3% privately rented and 9.1% affordable housing (social and intermediate) If we look at what affordable dwellings are NEEDED (per year) the analysis say 18 one bedroom properties and 1 four bedroomed house. During the last four years therefore 76 affordable houses were needed in Bunbury So how does current building plans (i.e. given consent) match this need?

Market 67 builds granted
Affordable 37 builds granted

I am using the term ‘Market’ to refer to speculative houses built during this period. The term is used in this sense by Cheshire East. That gives a shortfall of 35 dwellings needed in Bunbury.

By admin

Now retired from teaching. Involved in supporting the Village Day Committee, Village websites and Secretary of the Bunbury Action Group.