10 December 2013

In Cornwall there are arguments about how many houses we need here; no doubt these arguments are heard in a local cast elsewhere in England, especially in rural areas. Looking at Cornwall, there is a clutch of arguments that for shorthand I shall call minimising; they seek lower rather than higher numbers of additional houses. I think the minimising arguments present an unconvincing arithmetic that focuses on projections for total population growth and the latest short and probably atypical trends in that. It is this aspect, the arithmetic, that I am writing about in this post.

At present Cornwall has a target of a minimum of 42 250 additional houses to be built in the years to 2030/31. I think that is too few for the evidence. A rational, coherent, and explanatory response to the minimising arithmetic has been officially made. Look here, the minutes of Cornwall planning committee meeting of 15 November 2013.

Factors affecting the numbers of houses needed
The official argument explains that the forecasts of the number of houses needed are not solely dependent on increases in population; changes within populations also affect the numbers of houses needed. The number of households, that is groups and individuals needing a house, increases not only because total population grows by natural events (more births than deaths) and immigration but also because social changes create additional households – the argument mentions household creation through divorce, young people leaving home, and the elderly living longer and thus occupying their house longer and its being unavailable for others for a longer time. All these factors have to be taken into account when working out the range of the numbers of additional houses needed. There is also the question of how far the current economic recession is temporarily reducing immigration to Cornwall and thus indicating growth forecasts likely to be too small after the recession eases and ends.

Of course there is projection but this argument is compelling and routs the minimising case.

To the compelling argument we should add the question of hidden housing need in Cornwall swelling the numbers of people needing a house. I looked at this topic in this post.

SHMNA housing numbers
Housing numbers are discussed in the Cornwall Council local plan document here. Note that on page 212 the strategic housing market needs assessment (SHMNA) gives a range for the number of houses needed in Cornwall during 2010/11 to 2030/31 as 47 300 to 71 980.

Affordable housing
I explored issues around affordable housing in Cornwall here, which links to other posts on the theme, though these posts probably would benefit from some updating. The number on the imperfect waiting list for affordable housing is now about 29 000.

Government housing policy
This note, Planning for housing, (11 December 2013) discusses central government’s policy on housing supply, including housing numbers.