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Housing should be planned with better economic foresight, RTPI says

13 November 2017

Local housing need could be better assessed, but Government proposals for a new methodology would only entrench existing house-building patterns and fail to address the need for a mix of housing tenures and types, the RTPI says.

Crudely applied, the methodology will mean that housing targets in the south of England will go up and targets in the north will go down.

In its response to the Government consultation, the RTPI says: “The methodology does nothing to address the tendency to base housing growth on past trends, rather than on a more forward-looking strategy which takes into consideration future growth aspirations or employment projections.”

Need to look beyond ONS statistics

The Institute argues that ONS figures, while useful as a starting point, are too short termed and narrow.

A better methodology should require LAs to be more holistic by taking into account plans like the council’s own economic growth strategy, employment projections, a Local Enterprise Partnership Investment Strategy, a bespoke housing deal with Government, or wider Government’s plans such as the Oxford-Cambridge corridor, the Northern Powerhouse and the Industrial Strategy.

The Scottish Housing Need and Demand Assessment tool has been cited as an example from which such a model could be based.

The RTPI also says there needs to be more guidance to help authorities determine not only a baseline figure of homes, but also a breakdown of the right mix of homes at an early stage.

Concern over dropping Housing Market Areas

The RTPI is also concerned with the proposal to stop using Housing Market Areas (HMA) as geographical units for housing assessment, even though the proposals suggest using HMA geographies for “a statement of common ground”.

Analysing “need” based on local administrative districts has the danger of entrenching existing house creation patterns rather than meeting market needs on the ground which do not follow council boundaries. It also further erodes the incentive for strategic planning and cooperation across boundaries.

The RTPI welcomes the Government’s intention to increase planning fees but would prefer to see it allowed across the board, arguing that low performing LAs will continue to be stuck in a vicious cycle.

The RTPI’s response has been informed by our members’ views; around 40 members attended policy roundtable discussions over the past eight weeks.

The proposals, seen in the context of the Housing White Paper and Government actions to tackle the housing crisis, have also been criticised as single-mindedly focused on “supply” issues, with no attention focused on demand.

The response said: “Future proposals need to be considered very carefully and not just with a housing focus. They must be set in a broader context of the aims of planning and its ability to shape markets, improve the lives of people and protect the environment.”

Harry Burchill, RTPI Policy Officer, said:

“The RTPI sees the benefit of a better way to identify local housing need using a clear and justified method, but the current proposals need work. There is not one housing crisis but many, each with different variants. There must therefore be a multifaceted approach to dealing with it, as we have set out in our #16ways campaign.

“The unintended consequences of pursuing planning reform based solely on increasing housing numbers is very concerning to the RTPI, and, as the voice of planning professionals, we will continue to influence the debate in order to achieve high standards of place making.”

Read the RTPI’s full response to the consultation