CATERING FOR DIFFERENT HOUSEHOLD
SIZES AND NEEDS
68. With the Government's commitment to boost the
housing supply, it is important that a diverse range of housing
requirements are met, including the needs of families, elderly
people and the disabled. With reliance on a wide range of providers,
there is a greater challenge to meet all those needs. Demographic
pressures vary from region to region and this should be reflected
in the mix of new housing planned.
69. Evidence suggests that there is a preponderance
of flats being built rather than family housing, particularly
in town and city centres. This is a result of Government policies
seeking to achieve a higher density development in urban centres
and agencies, including the Housing Corporation and local authorities,
interpreting current trends in household sizes too literally.
Developers may also maximise their profits by building smaller
70. The East London Housing Partnership pointed out
that the concentration of smaller units does not help create stable
communities. It told us that
"It is inevitably more economically attractive
for developers to build high density one and two bedroom units
for sale than family housing. We are therefore concerned that
much of this housing will be occupied for relatively short terms
by childless couples who are then more likely to purchase family
housing elsewhere at a later date".
The Mayor of London highlighted a major shortage
of larger homes in the private and social rented sectors:
"Housing products must change across tenures.
In social housing, the GLA's Housing Requirements Study identified
that 42% should be 4-bed plus, to tackle the backlog in family
housing provision. This need for larger homes holds for intermediate
housing, where the policy driver is to aid retention of key workers
and prevent low-to-middle income families leaving London. The
need is for family-sized dwellings, rather than the 1-bed/studio
homes developers often see as the primary intermediate/key worker
product. Although the percentage of 3 bedroom or larger social
rented dwellings increased from 16% to 20% between 1991/2 and
2003/4, this is well below the required figure and analysis of
schemes under development indicates that this proportion is falling.
In the market sector, output of 3 and 4 bedroom homes fell from
28% to 19% between 1991/2 and 2003/4 - against the trend in all
other regions except the North East".
71. Many witnesses argued that while there was an
increasing number of smaller households, this did not necessarily
mean that more smaller houses or flats were required. Peter Lee,
from the Centre for Urban and Regional Studies at Birmingham University,
commented that "we are in danger of developing too many monolithic
one and two bedroom apartments on the assumption that households
will be smaller. Households will still have friends and, where
they have been divorced and have families, they will want their
kids to stay over".
72. The Minister for Housing and Planning, Yvette
Cooper MP, pointed out that housing needs varied across different
areas and that local authorities should make proper assessments.
She told us that the Government was keen to encourage higher density
development to create more sustainable communities, but that this
did not necessarily preclude family housing.
"I think it is very possible to meet the density
targets and have a wide range of different housing. For example,
I think we underestimate the terraced house. You can have very
large terraced houses with plenty of bedrooms which are relatively
high density. I think people think the only way to deliver density
is through blocks of flats and that is simply not true".
We note that while Planning Policy Guidance Note
3 (PPG3) on Housing set a minimum density target of 30 dwellings
per hectare (dph) for new housing development, the recent draft
Planning Policy Statement 3, which will replace PPG3, proposed
a range of densities depending on the location, with 30dph as
a minimum. It also proposes that planning authorities should stipulate
the balance between different household types to be provided for
across the plan area.
density development does not have to comprise smaller units or
a preponderance of flats. To create sustainable areas, a range
of unit sizes which caters for a range of needs is required. Funding
priorities and local authority policies need to be sufficiently
flexible to enable the new housing supply to reflect the range
of needs and household sizes in their particular areas.
74. The Government's policy to concentrate mixed
development in town and city centres has successfully encouraged
increasing numbers of new homes in many urban centres. In some
areas the housing market is distorted by significant levels of
buy-to-let investments, which have driven up prices and not created
stable communities. In these areas, the fact that housing offers
a higher return on capital investment than equities has driven
up prices artificially and is making home purchase unaffordable
for local buyers, forcing them into rented accommodation. The
London Borough of Barking said that, as a result, it was concerned
"much of this housing will be occupied for relatively
short terms by childless couples who are then more likely to purchase
family housing elsewhere at a later date. The social impact of
this is that communities are very transient and people are not
encouraged to establish long term roots in an area. Whilst the
market is flooded with smaller units, the prices of larger family
homes will continue to rise.
The secondary impact is that much of this housing
will be purchased as part of the vibrant buy to let market, which
whilst a necessary part of the growth of a developing economy
does not contribute to the social benefits of homeownership".
75. The Welsh Street Homes Group in Liverpool told
"The increased borrowing power available to
Southern, or Irish property owners has enabled the purchase of
'buy to let property' in regenerating Northern cities. This has
affected supply, and the cost of buying and renting accommodation
These views were supported by Sunderland City Council,
which told us that
"Another concern for the city, which stems from
market movement is the increased amount of investor buyer from
people who live outside the city and North East region. This is
especially common in the new-build apartment market. The trend
has contributed to pushing up purchase prices and prevented more
local people from buying such properties".
buy-to-let market is attracting additional investment and new
opportunities for private renting in many town and city centres.
In some areas, however, the transient population living in the
private rented housing adds to the instability of the area; the
activities of investment funds can skew, albeit temporarily, any
indicators of affordability as the house prices reflect the expected
financial return rather than what the local population can afford.
The local population is thus excluded from homeownership.
77. Local authorities
should be encouraged to take account of the potential impact of
housing developments being used as buy-to-let schemes when giving
planning approval. If necessary, the Government should consider
whether local authorities need additional powers to ensure a broad
range of family housing units are available in inner cities.
The needs of the elderly and the disabled
78. There is an increasing number of people with
special housing needs such as the elderly and disabled people.
There are concerns that with the increasing emphasis on promoting
homeownership the needs of these groups will be neglected. The
specialist housing association John Grooms highlights the low
level of homeownership among disabled people. It told us that
"The Government's emphasis on pursuing policies
to promote homeownership will further reduce the opportunities
which disabled people have for living independently in a house
which is accessible and adapted to their needs".
The Disability Rights Commission points out that
"The crisis we face is not just about affordability. It is,
crucially, also about a chronic dearth of housing which is accessible
to disabled people and designed to meet and adapt to the needs
of occupants over their lifetime".
According to the Commission, many local authorities require all
new homes to be built to the lifetime home standards and many
homes funded by the Housing Corporation also provide it. It is
not, however, a standard requirement for new house-building. The
lifetime home standard is included in the draft Code for Sustainable
Homes but only at the very highest level. John Grooms called for
all housing to be built to lifetime homes standards, with 10%
built to the higher wheelchair standard.
79. The charity Scope emphasises that to cater for
the needs of disabled people, land for housing development
"must be near or easily connected to public
and should be in close proximity
to essential services, shops and facilities or if not that these
elements should be contained within the development proposals
with guarantees from the relevant stakeholders that they will
be in place before planning permission is granted".
80. A report by the House of Lords into the economics
of an ageing population noted the increasing proportion of the
population over 65.
"In 1971, persons aged 65+ comprised 13.2 per
cent of the total UK population, and persons aged 80+ comprised
2.3 per cent of this total. By 2000, the 65+ population had grown
to 15.6 per cent of the total, but the 80+ population had almost
doubled its proportionate share to 4.0 per cent. Over the 50 years
to 2050, the Government Actuary's Department projects that the
65+ age group will have expanded to 24.4 per cent of the total
UK population, but that the 80+ age group will have more than
doubled to reach 9.1 per cent of this total".
81. There is some evidence that older homeowners
tend to under-occupy their homes and some have problems maintaining
them because they are 'asset rich and cash poor'. The Survey of
English Housing has developed a 'bedroom standard' by which it
has assessed whether occupants are under-occupying or are living
in overcrowded conditions. Analysis of the Survey, by the Elderflowers
Projects, shows that under-occupancy rises with age:
"In the 45-49 age group 31% of households are
under-occupying, this rises to 42% in the age category 50-54,
to 52% in the age category 55-59, to 56% in the age categories
60-64 and 65-69".
82. The Cheshire Housing Alliance highlighted the
results of a survey which shows that many older people had to
sell their homes to finance residential care in later life, and
there is evidence that the responsibility of maintaining a property
in old age creates financial hardship. "Homeowners cannot
always access grants and benefits that may be available to those
in the social sector and many are not aware of or mistrust equity
The Chartered Institute of Housing point out that
"In theory home purchase should reduce poverty
experienced by established homeowners in later life, because equity
can be released from the property. In reality 70% of poor homeowners
own their home outright - even when the property is debt-free,
ownership does not lift the household out of poverty. It is difficult
for many people to turn property-based wealth into income because
of the extremely poor terms offered by many equity release products
and the lack of suitable property (e.g. bungalows) for relocation/downsizing".
the Government's emphasis on promoting home-ownership, there is
a danger that the needs of disabled and older people, and those
with other special housing needs are neglected. It is important
that the housing, in both the private and social rented sectors,
is built to a standard which can be easily adapted to meet the
lifetime needs of their occupants. We recommend that the Code
for Sustainable Homes be amended to give greater priority to ensuring
homes are built to lifetime home standards. We further recommend
that the Government ensure that housing for disabled people is
provided on sites with easy access to essential services.
84. Many older
people are occupying homes which are too big for them. We recommend
that the Government work with the Housing Corporation, house-builders
and local authorities to increase the provision of smaller homes
suitable for older people.
85. Many equity
release schemes offer poor terms. We believe that the Government
should work with financial services providers to develop more
appropriate schemes which enable older people to realise some
of the capital tied up in their homes.
86. Much of our evidence emphasised the importance
of creating mixed communities with a mix of tenures if we are
to achieve sustainable communities. Mixing homeowners with social
residents helps to avoid stigmatisation. Providing a range of
unit sizes caters for the changing needs of residents. Social
rented, affordable and private housing need to be fully integrated
in terms of layout and indistinguishable in terms of the design.
Appropriate strategies will vary from one area to another depending
on the tenure balance and unit mix. The Chartered Institute of
Housing said that
"Some areas with a high concentration of social
housing may wish to increase the supply of private housing to
rebalance the housing market and alter the local economic profile.
Areas with a dearth of social housing where local residents have
to leave to secure affordable accommodation may wish to prioritise
social or intermediate housing over private provision
is a need to provide more expensive housing for wealthier households
as well as ensuring that lower income households can secure accommodation".
It also argued that a PSA target for mixed communities
would help to promote this strategic approach.
87. Both Barking and Dagenham Council and the West
Midlands Regional Assembly emphasised the need for 'aspirational'
housing to retain the population in inner urban areas. Ken Jones,
Head of Housing Strategic Development at Barking Council, told
"we need to attend to the needs of the existing
community, so we are looking at a balance between social rented,
intermediate forms of home-ownership and also aspirational housing,
because currently there is a shortage of that sector of housing
in Barking and Dagenham. Barking and Dagenham has, I think it
is, the second highest percentage of social rented homes in outer
Steve Gregory, Chair of the West Midlands Regional
Housing Partnership, highlighted the importance of providing aspirational
housing to stop executives fleeing to the suburbs. "Our strategy
is built around initially retaining the existing population and
making sure there are adequate aspirational housing opportunities
for the existing population, with an ambition for the executives
to remain in the conurbation".
higher level of house-building being promoted by the Government
should be delivered in a way that ensures the overall tenure mix
is appropriate to an area. Local authorities need to develop evidence-based
approaches which ensure that new housing development provides
for the full range of needs of local residents, especially families,
the elderly and disabled people. We recommend that Government
guidance also encourages the provision of private housing to meet
the aspirations of all those living and working in the area.