The projected number of additional households in London, revealed on Tuesday by the government, exposes the stark reality of life in the capital.
Ken Livingstone’s still ambitious target of 30,000 new homes a year reflects the constraints of housing supply, the slow rate of housebuilding and the limits on the amount of brownfield land that can be brought back into use.
The mayor’s target is based on household formation rates remaining constant over the next 20 years. But the projection of 46,400 additional households in the capital, as revealed in figures from the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, suggests otherwise.
Mr Livingstone’s target may be a reflection of London realpolitik.
That 46,400 is not a reflection of housing demand but what would happen if the demographic trends continued and housing supply was unconstrained. “It reflects lifestyle issues such as larger families choosing to live together in large groups or young single people choosing to live together in large households,” said an ODPM source.
These figures were last drawn up five years ago, when London’s household projections were for an extra 25,800 a year. That figure was even lower than the 32,900 a year for the south-east. However, today’s figures also focus attention on the amount of pressure the south-east faces as John Prescott, deputy prime minister, seeks to coerce largely reluctant Tory-led councils into absorbing greater numbers of homes.
The South-east England Regional Assembly has al-ready taken the Kate Barker recommendations to task after the monetary police committee member said in her review on housing supply there had to be substantial increases in building. The assembly said its projections showed much lower demand for new housing.
Paul Bevan, its chief executive Delegate capital, said all its calculations were based on demographic analysis and economic growth projections. “Hers were based on what we need to make the housing market balance,” he said.
His main concern is the amount of London growth overflow the south-east will have to absorb, even allowing for the mayor’s ambitious targets. “We applaud the ambition but we are fearful that it won’t be achieved,” said Mr Bevan.
After the announcement yesterday of how regional assemblies will be expected to draw up strategies for housing growth, today sees further drives by the ODPM to speed up planning reform to achieve housing growth.
Ministers will say they intend to merge housing boards with planning bodies under the auspices of regional assemblies, as recommended by Ms Barker.
The assemblies will draw up the long-term strategies for the regions. But they are going against Ms Barker’s suggestion for advisory boards in each region supporting the assemblies to improve the evidence base for housing policies, such as the relationship between housing, economic growth and deprivation.
Instead, a national advice centre, overseen by public and private sector experts, will provide advice to all the regions, a move likely to bring charges of centralisation against the government.
Neil Sinden, of the Campaign to Protect Rural England, said the advisers would have “an overwhelming influence” on assemblies in determining housing levels based on demographic trends.
In London and the south-east corner of England, the battles for and against development are shaping up. The ODPM figures suggest some success in London’s regeneration, says Mr Sinden, but it signals a “huge challenge” for Mr Livingstone’s Greater London Authority to accommodate the household growth projections.