Minister warns councils who think lower household projections mean they are 'off the hook'

The housing minister has warned local authorities not to 'take their foot off the accelerator' following the publication of new household projections that indicate a much lower level of housing need in many parts of the country.

Housing minister Kit Malthouse (right) speaking at the ConservativeHome conference fringe event
Housing minister Kit Malthouse (right) speaking at the ConservativeHome conference fringe event

Speaking yesterday at a Conservative Party Conference fringe event on home ownership organised by the ConservativeHome website, Kit Malthouse also revealed that the government is considering looking at whether the projections mask pent-up demand by basing their figures on a period of low household growth.

The household projections were published by the government's Office for National Statistics (ONS) last month.

When the government's new standard method of assessing housing need, introduced in the NPPF, is applied to the new projections, 17 authorities see their need fall by more than 50 per cent and 73 see it cut by more than a third, according to the consultancy Bidwells.

While the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG), which used to publish the figures until last year, based its projections on household trends back to 1971, the ONS only used trends in household formation back to 2001. 

At the fringe event, Malthouse was asked by a councillor from Berkshire about the new projections prompting a drop in housing need.

The minister said: "We are having a very rapid look at this rather unexpected result from the ONS. It has caused some very anomalous results. There's some strong growth areas of the country that now have a zero housing need which is patently obviously incorrect."

Malthouse said that "part of the problem" is that the ONS has changed the methodology used by MHCLG. 

The ONS has chosen to measure household formation rates between just two census points, he said, covering a "period of particularly low housing growth" during which "there was an artificial constraint on household formation". 

"Households can only form if there are households for them to form into," he added. 

In contrast, the MHCLG used to measure over five census points covering a longer period, said Malthouse. 

He added: "We are looking at some data on the increase in the number of people staying at home to see whether that artificial constraint means we should look at the numbers again. 

"We are hoping to make a rapid announcement about that because [councils] are doing the maths and saying 'I'm off the hook.'

"But my message [to local authorities] is: don't take your foot off the accelerator. 

"[The projection] doesn't reflect the pent-up demand, the people who weren't catered to in the previous 20 or 30 years and now want to get on the housing ladder. 

"This is a projection forward of household formation, not a reflection of previous demand which has been thus far unmet."

A workshop session on the new National Planning Policy Framework's standard method for assessing housing need, led by David Roberts, team leader (planning for housing need, Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government) will take place at next week's Planning for Housing conference. For full details and to book your place, click here. 

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Sign up now
Already registered?
Sign in

Join the conversation with PlanningResource on social media

Follow Us:
Planning Jobs