Councils could fall short of their housing targets for 2026 by more than 1 million homes unless they speed up their development processes, a report has warned
Modular building specialist Project Etopia released analysis of government data showing the extent to which local authorities across England needed to increase residential construction to fulfil need.
Ministers this year set new minimum housebuilding requirements for councils as part of an overhaul of the planning system designed to boost housebuilding volumes.
Now Project Etopia has looked at more than 300 areas to see how their average building rates for the five years to April 2017 compare to the new annual targets – initially consulted on last year – for the decade from 2016 to 2026.
The research found that if all these councils were to continue at their previous rates, they would be 1,013,312 homes short of their assessed housing need in 2026.
Southend-on-Sea was in the worst position of those local authorities analysed. With a target of 1,114 new homes every year and a pre-existing building rate of around 250 per annum, without improvement it wouldn’t meet its housing target for 2026 until 2060.
Meanwhile, Preston in Lancashire was ahead of housing need by the biggest margin, being on course to meet 2026 demand by 2021.
A definite geographic divide can be seen from the data with just one of the top 10 councils ahead of targets being in the South, and just one of the bottom 10 behind targets in the North.
Project Etopia chief executive Joseph Daniels said: ‘It is alarming to see so many areas so far behind already. If the pace is not rapidly picked up, we will be in an even deeper black hole in 10 years’ time than we are in now.
’Housing need is plain for all to see but not enough is being done about it. There is an air of complacency – everyone knows we need to build more houses and fast, but not enough decisive action is being taken to ease the crisis.’
Housebuilders said councils were already reacting to the need to increase build rates.
A spokesperson for the Home Builders Federation said: ‘Some places that are under-delivering have done deals with neighbouring authorities to meet their unmet needs while some of those that have over-delivered have other strategies in place that seek to turn around economic decline or outward migration so have deliberately set local plan targets higher than their calculated needs.
’The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) has introduced the delivery test as well as requiring a five-year supply of housing land. It will monitor this shortfall far more closely than it has in the past, forcing local planning authorities to publish annual assessments and set out in action plans how they are going to address the identified problem rather than allowing them to sit on any shortfall until they get around to updating their local plan.’
Ministers this summer pledged almost £2 billion of support to unlock sites for new homes. The government said it was committed to building more and better homes faster.
A spokesperson said: ‘Through planning reform and the billions of pounds in targeted investment, we are giving local areas the tools they need to build more properties. Where councils fall short of house-building targets, they will have to produce an action plan to explain how they are going to increase the number of properties.
’Ultimately, if local targets are not being met, we will impose a presumption in favour of sustainable development on authorities.’
Southend-on-Sea Borough Council deputy leader James Courtenay said the local authority was delivering ahead of targets in its existing local plan and that it was ‘premature’ to forecast what would be achieved under the as-yet finalised replacement.
‘In July this year, the government’s revised NPPF re-evaluated our area’s housing need using a new formula,’ he said. ‘This calculated the housing need as over 1,100 homes per annum. This, however, is different from a housing target as the NPPF sets out how local authorities should establish plans that seek to meet the area’s need.
‘We are now in the process of preparing new plans to see how and what proportion of this need can be delivered sustainably in Southend and further afield in south Essex, with regard to other planning consideration.’