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Proposals for house building targets in England must avoid creating a north-south divide

Proposals for housing projects in England should avoid creating divisions in the north-south
A series of proposed changes to the planning system in England was recently proposed, including the use of a new algorithm to estimate where 300,000 new homes were built each year.

It seems to suggest that more houses should be built in the south of England – as well as a reduction in housing targets in other northern areas. This has created tensions between politicians, industry associations and local government organizations, with allegations that the changes will lead to more housing in the south and fewer in the north.

New houses being built

New housing in England. Duncan Andison/Shutterstock

The proposed changes add fuel to the ongoing debate around the “north-south divide”: significant differences in housing projects between the northern and southern regions. There are differing views on the housing issue that any decision needs to be considered

The proposed algorithm creates estimates of the annual impact of housing development in each region by demand, population growth and land availability. An analysis of the algorithm by the Royal Town Planning Institute shows that another 161% of homes will need to be built in London and southeast, as well as a few 28% in the north.

Declining housing targets in the north may be due to slower population growth, greater access to the northern areas compared to the southern ones, and consideration of the gap between housing prices and income over the past decade, rather than in the current year.

New houses are being built
New houses in England. Duncan Andison / Shutterstock

In its face, it is undeniable that more and less expensive homes should be built in areas where there is a greater need. There is a definite need to set clear goals for housing. Any effort to reach these goals is commendable. But it is not correct. Target needs to be considered carefully and most importantly, delivered.

Understanding housing demand at the local level is quite deceptive. In general, housing demand estimates may include short-term factors, such as income growth, interest rates, access to credit, wealth, property taxes, and rising house prices. It also takes into account long-term factors, such as population size and shape, family growth and migration rates. Not only do you need to look at the demand for first-time buyers, but also for existing homeowners.

Social and economic interests often cross administrative boundaries in local areas. Housing objectives need to reflect this, and consultation is needed between local governments to establish appropriate regional policy.

In England, too, areas with high housing demand such as those in the south are under pressure to obtain land for development. If the algorithm suggests duplication or consolidation of housing targets in an area such as London or southeast – it has limited access to land for development – it raises questions as to whether new policies can actually be introduced.

These goals could also lead to an increase in world prices. The price of land will be included in the cost by developers, and the end result could be the production of high-value housing. This doesn’t really address concerns about availability.Different effects

Housing is an important part of the local economy. It creates jobs, generates income to support families and revitalizes local communities.

Reducing housing projects could lead to lower economic outcomes. As several areas in the north continue to suffer as a result of the epidemic, it could add to their economic woes. COVID retrieval can take longer in those areas.

The northern regions report high levels of income cuts and may be home to many people in the public sector. This often has a significant relationship with COVID-19 infection rates and disease severity.

Run down terraced houses

Run down the stairs to the houses
Demolition houses in Leeds, UK. philip openshaw / Shutterstock

While poor housing conditions are a national problem, it is a problem in the north, where there are large numbers of pre-war housing, low-cost housing.

New, decent homes and housing stock improvements are needed to deal with poor housing conditions, although this may not always be the case in general estimates.

A recent study by Public Health England suggested that residents in low-income housing are at higher risk of COVID-19. Therefore, it is very likely that this long-term imbalance will be associated with the COVID-19 problem.

Social and spatial inequalities in the housing market, exacerbated by the COVID-19 crisis, are likely to continue for many years. In post-Brexit and post-COVID UK, all regions will need attention. Policy tools need to be realistic, eliminate regional divisions and reduce poverty in all regions.

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