Government is ignoring the housebuilding facts to suit its own narrative, by Chris Brown

It's been fascinating to watch how politicians and vested interests have gyrated with the news that the Office for National Statistics' annual household formation rate projections for England have dropped by 50,000 a year.

Housing starts, and completions, are now higher than the rate of household formation.

Crisis, what crisis?

This has undermined the core narrative of the housing development industry. So, you might think that discussions might now refocus on the nature of housing need.

Is it the problem of the size of deposits for first time buyers relative to wages (which the Bank of Mum and Dad is still filling pretty effectively for the 'haves' as part of a necessary transfer of equity and wealth between the generations)?

Or is it about rental affordability for young people?

Is it about the size of waiting lists for those in subsidised housing wanting to move to a better home?

Or perhaps the problem is that almost the entire growth in new households is for the over 65s and that we are just not building enough homes for this demographic?

Or is it rough sleeping (now shocking ordinary people by its new visibility in all our major cities), involuntary sofa surfing and people in temporary accommodation?

But no. The government’s response to the change in the statistics was: "We will consult on adjustments to the way housing need is calculated so it is consistent with delivering 300,000 new homes per year by the mid-2020s."

So, we'll not just ignore the facts, we will change the facts to match our narrative.

The government is currently reviewing both sides of the housing equation: the household projections and how they count housing starts and completions. Given their stated approach we might need to be sceptical about the answers these changes produce.

Chris Brown is executive chairman of Igloo Regeneration

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