Monday, 5 October 2009

Affordable housing - "the perfect storm"

A recent meeting at Wrecsam Council was presented with the idea that the Welsh Assembly Government is insisting on 9900 new households in the borough from now until 2021.

But, on closer inspection of the accompanying paperwork, it appears that WAG is saying that, based on recent past trends, the number of households will grow by this much.

This is based on the recent extraordinary housing boom in Wrecsam, which saw the borough experience a "perfect storm" of three distinct factors: EU migration, migration from within the UK and rapid growth in student numbers at NEWI in the past 5-6 years. In just two years more than 2000 homes were built, more than double the numbers anticipated in the council's current development plan. House prices in Wrecsam were the 3rd fastest rising in the UK from 1997-2007 because of the demand created by this "perfect storm". Prices more than trebled - a rise of 262% in just 10 years. [source Halifax Building Society].

The rapid EU migration was a specific event, UK in-migration was three times the Welsh level and NEWI/Glyndwr has undergone rapid and specific development in the last few years.

WAG's letter is clear that this is not expected to continue - but it's for the council to show why it won't continue:

The projections are based on past trends and are not forecasts of the future number of households. It is for local planning authorities to consider the appropriateness of the projections for their area, based upon all sources of local evidence,
including the need for affordable housing identified by the Local Housing Market Assessment (LHMA). Local planning authorities have the ability to deviate from the Assembly Government’s household projections if they have robust evidence and policy context. They can also undertake their own policy-based projections, but they must justify the reasons for doing so and explain the rationale behind their own projections.

Local planning authorities need to consider thoroughly the implications of the new Welsh Assembly Government household projections for their LDP. They should consider how appropriate it is to take them forward in the Local Development Plan or provide evidence to substantiate any alternative figures.

Accompanying 2006 household projections also make it clear the intent:

Local authority household projections indicate the likely number of households if existing trends continue. This may lead to new policies being introduced, which may result in the original projections not being realised. This means that the household projections will have met one of its prime functions – to illustrate the consequences of recent and current
trends in household formation, and allow policy makers and service delivery planners an opportunity to change this.

The perfect storm provides "robust evidence and policy context" to explain why we should NOT continue past trends and look to tackle the problems we've encountered by reducing the overall housing allocation while maintaining the affordable housing allocation as high as possible.

One reason in-migration from other parts of the UK is higher than average because the houses built in Wrexham were disproportionately executive homes when local need was for two-bedroom starter homes. Another reason was that Cheshire was building too few new homes around Chester - this will change due to the decision by Cheshire West and Chester Council to build 400+ homes a year.

1 comment:

Peter D Cox said...

Welcome to the fantasy world of Local Development Plans! We've had exactly the same problem in Cardiff - every policy is made on the assumption of continued growth in spite of the "One wales - One Planet" policy.
Cardiff has a massive stock (built and planned) of unsuitable housing - yet the Deposit LDP plans even more. And there's pressure to release greenfield sites because brownfield is too expensive!
And as for co-operating with other authorities to focus employment/housing in the valleys, for example, ... forget it.
If you are in the LDP process though, be warned, the possibilities for influence are severely limited ... watch the detail.