Memorandum by The Chartered Institute
of Housing (SHC 21)
The Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) welcomes
the Select Committee Inquiry into Planning for Sustainable Housing
and Communities. Our members are involved in a range of activities
that contribute to the development and management of sustainable
environments. As well as our interest in planning, CIH has contributed
to the policy debates on social exclusion, community cohesion,
choice based lettings, neighbourhood management and other issues
related to promoting sustainable communities.
CIH has submitted evidence to the Committee's
Inquiry into Affordable Housing which we believe is also relevant
to the issues being considered here. CIH made a joint submission
to the Affordable Housing Inquiry together with the Local Government
Association, National Housing Federation, Royal Town Planning
Institute and Shelter that focused specifically on the role of
planning obligations in providing affordable housing. We believe
that our suggestions set out in both these submissions, would
assist local authorities in their attempts to deliver more sustainable
housing and communities.
A number of organisations have made projections
for new housing based on successive Government population and
household projections for England and there is now a good deal
of consensus on the numbers of homes required. Figures produced
for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, which were updated from 1998-based
household projections to take on board the year 2000 population
projections, suggest that the newly arising need for dwellings
will be about 210,000 per year. This does not include the backlog
of unmet housing need that includes, for example, people living
in bed and breakfast accommodation, families and households that
are forced to share and hostel residents, etc. In 1996, this backlog
was estimated to be around 650,000 households. Eliminating this
backlog over a 20 year period would add an additional 32,000 dwelling
per year to the total number required. These figures are very
similar to those derived on behalf of the House Builders' Federation.
While projections need to be continually updated
in the light of new data, it can be safely assumed that well in
excess of 200,000 new dwellings are needed in England each year
for the next 20 years or so. With the level of completions of
new dwellings (plus conversions) running at an average of only
154,000 per annum over the last five years it can be seen that
there is a significant shortfall in provision.
The higher level of funding for affordable housing
announced in the Spending Review is not likely to increase the
level of house building by enough to reduce house prices significantly.
This is partly because the number of additional affordable homes
that can be provided from the increased funding is relatively
small in relation to the total amount of housing that will be
built. In addition, these homes will be provided for people who
cannot otherwise buy, so while it will help to meet the housing
needs of households that require homes at less than market prices,
it is not likely to affect the market significantly.
Measures to support key workers have until recently
been aimed at subsidising buyers to purchase existing properties,
rather than increasing the overall supply of homes. If anything,
this has the effect of increasing, rather than decreasing, house
prices. The announcement in the Spending Review of moves to build
new housing for key workers is therefore welcome and CIH suggests
that any future funding for this group should also focus on boosting
We agree with the Government's plans to designate
these areas for growth. However, in order to be sustainable, this
must not result purely in concentrated developments of housing,
but must include facilities to support thriving communities. Services
such as transport, shops, doctor's surgeries, leisure centres,
etc will also be needed and these must be co-ordinated with the
Whilst it makes sense to have some concentration
of new house building, these areas cannot provide for all London's
housing needs. These plans must not exclude growth in other high
demand areas of London and the South. For example, there is high
demand in West London, and this would not be met by building in
East London, which would encourage, rather than ease long-distance
commuting. These plans are not likely to significantly reduce
the demands placed on other London boroughs in terms of their
responsibilities to meet housing need and tackle homelessness.
CIH considers that a new approach to planning
and the way that public agencies seek to influence the housing
market are needed in order to promote sustainable communities
and prevent sprawl.
The neutrality of the planning system, and the
way that planning has become focussed on arbitrating on disputes
over land use, has inadvertently contributed to the increasing
divisions in society and the prevalence of unsustainable communities.
Left to the market, housing of different types and sizes will
inevitably separate into different locations so that better and
worse off households become physically separated, worsening problems
of social exclusion in poorer neighbourhoods.
The Government has pledged to introduce a statutory
purpose for planning, when an opportunity to legislate presents
itself. Depending on the purpose that is chosen, how it is framed
and whether subsequent planning guidance is reformed in line with
this, this will have an important bearing on the delivery of high
quality sustainable communities in the future.
We suggest that a more positive role for planning
focussing on "the creation of sustainable communities"
should be set out in legislation. This purpose should be explained
further in terms of the three elements of "the well-being
of areas" set out in part 1, section 2 of the Local Government
Act 2000that is, economic, social and environmental. The
effect on sustainability over a broad area should be an important
consideration when strategies are being drawn up and individual
judgements made over land use. This principle needs to be interpreted
for the full range of planning activities. Planning guidance and
the criteria for Planning Inspectorate judgements needs to be
The Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR)
recently undertook an Inquiry into the Future of Social Housing,
publishing its report Housing United in 2000. It suggested adopting
a set of policy goals for a sustainable housing market and these
are set out in an appendix to this paper. CIH believes these criteria
provide a good indication as to whether or not a housing market
The amount, type and location of new housing,
and the balance of housing for sale and affordable housing, are
key factors in determining the sustainability of a community.
There are currently, however, two distinct systems for determining
how much housing is built which mitigates against producing sustainable
outcomes. What is needed is a common basis for deriving housing
needs of all types that recognises the housing market as a dynamic
Total housing figures are determined in a top
down manner. National household estimates are used by regional
planning bodies to determine regional targets, set out in Regional
Planning Guidance. Land capacity is another factor that is used
in drawing up targets and national and regional politics plays
its part. Once decided, these figures are cascaded to local authority
areas and incorporated into local plans, although the basis for
these decisions is often unclear. The actual numbers built do
not usually match the target figures for a variety of reasons,
and the Deputy Prime Minister has said that he intends to ensure
that local authorities do build to the targets in the future.
In contrast, the levels of affordable housing required are seen
as a matter for local authorities to determine for their areas,
although other factors are also taken into account, such as financial
capacity, the planned level of land release and the mix of sites
This means that the decision-making and delivery
processesone for total housing and one for affordable housingare
dislocated from each other. For different reasons, neither process
may accurately reflect housing need in a particular locality or,
if it does, may not result in the need being addressed.
The process for delivering housing overall can
be seen as permissive (ie depending on land owners making land
available) and constrained by "planning" issues (such
as policy decisions on use of Greenfield land, etc). The process
for delivering affordable housing is either reactive (requiring
social housing to be provided as part of market-led schemes) or
proactive (providing social housing directly) and limited by financial
capacity (eg, availability of Social Housing Grant).
This separation also means that housing professionals
are not involved sufficiently in determining total housing figures,
while planners are not playing a full role in deciding the need
for affordable housing. This results in a dislocated, rather than
a coherent policy on new housing provision. It also means that
interactions between the different types of market and affordable
housing are poorly understood, so that "market" solutions
to meeting some affordable housing requirements (eg stimulating
private renting, providing starter homes) might be missed.
The lack of reliable methodologies for determining
housing provision and affordable housing targets, as well as the
fact that targets are not achieved in reality, conspire to reduce
the credibility of the system. Local authorities also tend to
act independently from each other, as the system does not promote
a collective approach to determining housing requirements.
There is scope for improving the way figures
for total housing, and for different types of affordable housing,
are generated. A much better way to tackle this would be to seek
the development of a common basis for deriving housing needs that
would reflect the reality of the housing market as a dynamic system.
Housing market areas, rather than local authority administrative
areas, also need to be given more attention, since movements frequently
occur across such boundaries.
CIH is aware that some local authorities are
using techniques that take on board a range of data relating to
housing markets in order to determine their need for affordable
housing. Also, some local authorities are already working with
others at a sub-regional level to determine housing needs. The
Welland Partnership in the East Midlands is an example of such
a group of local authorities.
The emergence of a significant regional agenda,
and an increasing level of joint local authority working at sub-regional
level offer an opportunity to develop a new approach to deriving
both market and affordable housing needs at the regional and sub-regional
level. We would encourage ODPM to look more seriously into developing
such an approach, which we believe would enable local authorities
to take a much more coherent and strategic approach to meeting
housing needs and requirements.
Our response to the question above provides
part of this answerthat market dynamics at regional and
sub-regional level need to play a larger role in deriving the
numbers of dwellings to be built, both market and affordable.
We suggest that this might extend broadly to housing tenure, although
within overall targets local authorities need to be able to decide
what types of housing are developed on a site by site basis to
meet specific local housing needs.
It is reasonable for government to impose targets
for density of new housing developments in order to work towards
its objectives for sustainability, but we believe that other measures
are needed to ensure that high density dwellings are good quality.
For example, they need to be sufficiently spacious and have good
quality sound insulation.