Fringe Box



Letter: There Has Been No Collapse in Housing Need

Published on: 30 Sep, 2018
Updated on: 30 Sep, 2018

From Andrew Lainton

town planner

I read with interest your article about the debate over housing numbers and the Guildford Local Plan examination.

The argument of the Guildford Society and others is that the Office for National Statistics had overestimated the number of students staying on after graduation.

This issue has become of wider interest in the last few days, the Office for National Statistics acknowledged the point and a number of university towns have seen a collapse in their assessed household projections – the number as a foundation used to assess housing targets in Local Plans.

Last week’s revised household projections were lower which some assumed to be an acknowledgment of a collapse of “need” in many areas, especially university towns.

This was a misinterpretation, and it is now widely accepted that this results in a flaw in thinking over how to interpret and apply the Office for National Statistics numbers.  They signal not that we need less housing but that we need far more.  For example, see the research in Cambridge by Cambridge Ahead.

Actually, there has been no collapse in housing need in England led by a rapid collapse in university towns; in fact the reverse.  All the evidence of our eyes looking at estate agents’ windows suggests the opposite, like the £500,000 typical house price in Guildford, and the homeless on our streets.

We can see with our eyes. Aren’t business closing, aren’t homes lying empty, is the economy failing because workers can’t be attracted because no one wants to live here?  No, the opposite is true.

The ONS data suggests there has been a collapse in household formation because it has become too unaffordable to live here. We now have a generation of couch surfers, failure to launch children and 40- and 60-year-olds forced to move back in with mum and dad after the great recession of divorce.

We are no longer building enough homes to see the steady increase in household formation we saw prior to 2007.  The ONS agree which is why they are publishing new projections taking into account these profound shifts in December and issued string health checks to their numbers which few seemed to get to.

Indeed there is a positive correlation between the economic growth of our fastest growing towns and the rate at which the original ONS projections saw a fall – that tells you something.

A few nimbys here and there suggest the numbers now say we need to build fewer houses and can keep the green belt as a Trumpian wall against young people living where they can get jobs, but it tells us the opposite.

Especially for students, graduating students can’t find houses they can afford near where they graduate (often high tech clusters) and that strangles the growth of our most productivity-enhancing companies reliant on a pool of the best talent from universities.

This is not trying to protect towns like Guildford, it is trying to kill its future in favour of a lucky generation of baby boomers appreciating the rise in asset values of their homes at the expense of a “generation rent” who might never be able to afford their own homes.

Share This Post

Responses to Letter: There Has Been No Collapse in Housing Need

  1. John Perkins Reply

    October 7, 2018 at 11:45 am

    The author wants us to believe:
    – that comparing one flawed computer model with another, equally flawed, proves that we aren’t having enough children. (where are they meant to go, another planet?)
    – that less is more and not building houses for students is the same as erecting a wall against them.

    What kind of business expects taxpayers to subsidise housing for its customers?

    Mr Lainton is presumably a fan of Le Corbusier, as were so many planners after the war when they forcibly ejected people from their homes in order to erect ugly minimalist tower blocks. Not content with that they turned their brutalism on the centre of Birmingham and other cities, inflicting damage far worse than the Luftwaffe ever did. Their works are rightly despised and much of it has since had to be demolished.

  2. Valerie Thompson Reply

    October 8, 2018 at 12:17 pm

    Mr Lainton suggests that nimbys are preventing young people from living near their work. Work is generally not available in rural villages, except for farming and shop assistants.

    Work in offices or factories is mostly in and near towns.

    Workers need to live close by, not commute from outlying districts. Some small houses are needed in villages for carers and downsizers. This can mostly be achieved through sensitive infilling. Four and five bedroom houses, which are what the developers want to build, are not needed in the villages. Therefore there should be no need to build on the green belt.

  3. Lisa Wright Reply

    October 9, 2018 at 8:03 pm

    What does “Nimby” actually mean?

    Just recently, Nimby seems to relate to the town folk who don’t want more young people near the station, buses, restaurants and leisure facilities. Why? Is it to preserve historical buildings and car park spaces?

Leave a Comment

Please see our comments policy. All comments are moderated and may take time to appear.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *