Friday, 27 February 2015

Kent misses housebuilding targets

Given the public outcry against almost any proposed housing development, it’s not surprising the supply of new homes in Kent continues to fall woefully behind every other county in the South East, according to the latest market statistics.

National figures suggest 118,760 homes were built in England in 2014, missing the much-publicised target of 245,000 by more than 120,000.

The National Housing Federation indicates that during 2014 there were 3,100 new homes and 630 social homes built in Kent. However, it suggests we needed to build 8,519 new ones and 1,777 social homes – a shortfall of 63 per cent and 65 per cent.

When it comes to the gap between new homes built and new homes needed across Kent, the statistics throw up some interesting points for discussion. 

The picture is complex, with many factors influencing delivery, not least the inconsistency of Kent’s districts in terms of compliance with the NPPF, combined with differing local political attitudes towards development and levels of local opposition influencing planning decisions. 

Add in the impending general and local elections, as well as challenges in the supply chain and skills issues, and it’s hard to see how the situation can be turned around in 2015.

Then there’s the pure economics of the house building industry with the oft heard accusation from politicians that developers are land banking. The reality is that many housebuilders have options on land that, even with the recent upturn in values, is not yet showing strong enough signs of viability to give them confidence of making a profit or even the ability to support the S106 agreements or social housing allocations.

While it’s true the major housebuilders have been announcing strong performance – Persimmon Homes reported profits up from £330m to £475m on turnover of £2.6bn in 2014, and Bovis reported a 69 per cent rise in profits to £133.5m – this has been secured on the back of careful cost management and rising house values. 

When it comes to Kent, the picture is at best mixed, with a countywide shortfall of 64 per cent in terms of delivery against need. 

The best performing authority was Dartford, with delivery only 15 per cent behind need, having built 520 of the required 611 new homes last year.

If the figures are to be believed, Swale narrowly beat Gravesham and Sevenoaks to take the title for the widest gap between delivery and demand at 84 per cent and 83 per cent short of the target.

In actual terms, Medway took the top spot for the biggest shortfalls of units, missing its target of 1,384 by a massive 1,044, but then it is the single largest local council in terms of population. Here are the figures from the National Housing Federation:

New homes picture


AREA
HOMES NEEDED
HOMES BUILT
HOMES SHORTFALL
% SHORTFALL





Kent
8519
3100
5419
64%
Ashford
881
190
691
78%
Canterbury
913
230
683
75%
Dartford
611
520
91
15%
Dover
409
260
149
36%
Gravesham
523
90
433
83%
Maidstone
1127
420
707
63%
Medway UA
1384
340
1044
75%
Sevenoaks
523
90
433
83%
Shepway
379
80
299
79%
Swale
983
160
823
84%
Thanet
653
300
353
54%
Tonbridge & Malling
830
630
200
24%
Tunbridge Wells
689
130
559
81%

When it comes to the delivery of social housing, once again the performance falls way behind demand, except in Maidstone, which missed its 235-unit target by just six per cent.

Anti-social behaviour

In stark contrast, neither Swale nor Tunbridge Wells delivered a single new social home last year, despite having a need for 205 and 144 respectively. And Canterbury only delivered 10 of its target 190 units, falling short by 95 per cent 

Social homes picture


AREA
SOCIAL HOMES NEEDED
SOCIAL HOMES BUILT
SOCIAL HOMES SHORTFALL
% SHORTFALL





Kent
1777
630
1147
65%
Ashford
184
30
154
84%
Canterbury
190
10
180
95%
Dartford
127
30
97
76%
Dover
85
70
15
18%
Gravesham
109
20
89
82%
Maidstone
235
220
15
6%
Medway UA
289
100
189
65%
Sevenoaks
109
20
89
82%
Shepway
79
10
69
-87%
Swale
205
0
205
-100%
Thanet
136
50
86
-63%
Tonbridge & Malling
173
160
13
-8%
Tunbridge Wells
144
0
144
-100%

Storing up problems

With average house prices touching £300,000, an 80 per cent mortgage would require a massive deposit and an annual income of £66,812 to service it, which is way above the average salary for the region.

The result is that many people are forced to continue renting. The average monthly private rent in the South East is now around £860, well above that in many parts of Kent, and considerably above the English average of £720.

According to the National Housing Federation, the South East will see a further 781,000 new households formed in the next 20 years. At the current rate of building the region will face a housing shortfall of more than 400,000 by 2031.

Despite what the Daily Mail and others might have you believe, the increased demand for new housing is not to satisfy the needs of the new arrivals, but more in response to changing family demographic patterns.

Solution

To solve this housing crisis for the next generation, it’s been widely acknowledged for a number of years that we urgently need to build more homes. What’s required is a political will, an understanding among the local community that there is an acknowledged need, and for local council planning departments to be given the resources to efficiently manage applications.

Not wishing to be negative, but with the General Election holding back decisions on a number of planning applications, is it possible the volume of new homes built in 2015 will not even reach last year’s poor performance?

Will any political party push the housing agenda in their election manifesto? And if they do – and gain power on 7 May ­– will they come good and deliver on their promise? Only time will tell.

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