Are all the new homes required?

I am often asked whether I believe all the Government's proposed new homes are necessary.

The simple answer is yes. I do believe that more homes are required because of the current demographic changes taking place in the UK. This was one of the main findings and conclusions of Kate Barker's report, which was published in 2004.


The report actually recommended that as many as 250,000 homes were required per annum to make up for the housing shortfall. At this figure, it would basically mean that we would have to double the number of houses that we build, which currently stands at around 120,000 per annum.

So what are these demographic changes? I recently read an article in the Gloucester Echo by Gloucester County Council executive director, Peter Bungard, which explained the situation very well.

Like other Regional Assemblies, the South West Regional Assembly, has stipulated that 30,000 more homes are needed in Gloucestershire by 2026. This effectively means that 2,400 new homes must be built annually for the next 20 years.

There is a proposal to build a number of these houses on greenbelt land and this has lead locals and campaigns to ask "are all the new homes necessary and where do all the new occupants of these new homes come from?"

The answer may surprise you - most of the growth is generated locally. Gloucester, for example, has seen around 7,000 new homes built in the past 10 years and yet its population has only increased by 7,000? So who are living in these houses?

To a degree, it is new people moving into the area. Presently, 2,300 more people move into Gloucestershire than move out but most new houses are required because demographic changes are creating smaller households.

People are living longer and more elderly people are choosing to stay in their own homes. The number of couples divorcing or separating has not slowed down and there is a constant supply of young couples wishing to set up new homes. Essentially, there are many more households and many are single people.

55 out of every 100 new homes in Gloucestershire has been generated by demand for local people. Such demographic trends are roughly the same across the country - creating a need for more housing.

Going back to Gloucestershire, who are the 45 people taking up the new homes? They are newcomers to the area, attracted by Gloucestershire's prosperous economy and pleasant live style.

There is one additional point to cover - affordable housing. As Kate Barker's report suggested we are probably building too few houses at the moment and though, house prices are now stablising, the cost of housing continues to far exceed most first time buyer's salaries. Statistics for Gloucestershire show the cost of a house has risen to seven times the average income for men and nine times for women.

If we wish our children to be able to afford a home, we need to build them. Lack of supply has driven prices up and though they may come down, they will still not be easily affordable by most first time buyers.

As Peter Bungard concludes, "the demand for more houses in Gloucestershire is not going away, assuming we live longer, divorce remains common place, we want a strong economy and we want our kids to afford their own home one day.

The question then remains about where we put them and what infrastructure will be needed".

UK Land Directory Comment - Jun 05

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