Planning is the horcrux in the new home building system
At a time when everyone knows, and agrees, that new homes are urgently needed it is quite astounding that the latest official figures show that planning applications are falling in England.
In the second quarter of this year the number of applications for planning permission received was 118,100, down 4% compared with the same quarter of 2017 and decisions granted also fell by 4%.
It is also taking slightly longer for applications to be reviewed with the data, published by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, also showing councils decided 87% of major applications within 13 weeks or the agreed time, down 1% from a year earlier.
This adds to the difficulties that first time buyers are facing as house prices continue to rise. Indeed the latest index from the Halifax show that house prices in the UK were 1.8% higher in the third quarter of 2018 than in the previous three months and 2.5% higher than the same period in 2017.
The annual growth rate may have slowed from the 3.7% recorded in August and on a monthly basis, house prices fell by 1.4% in September, but overall the lender points out that house prices are within the range expected for 2018, actually they are near the top of it’s forecast range of zero to 3% for 2018 and the Halifax points out that it is due to the lack of new homes for sale.
Quite frankly, stock levels at their lowest in a decade, and despite all the political hype, despite Help to Buy, despite low mortgage rates and more products available for home buyers, enough homes are not being built.
It is interesting that new research reveals which parts of England have the highest number of homes bought using the Government’s flagship Help to Buy scheme. London tops the list, followed by Greater Manchester, the West Midlands, West Yorkshire, Cheshire and Essex.
The study from Fasthomes.org also shows that the locations with the lowest number were Bristol, East Sussex, Herefordshire, Rutland and the Isle of Wight.
But young people cannot afford to buy. Those aged 22 to 29 years have become less likely to own their own home, with the proportion of home owners down by 10%, data published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) shows. The number in this age group owning a home fell from 37% in 2008 to 27% in 2017.
It is a reminder of how hard it is now to save for a deposit for a first home. For home ownership levels among those in their twenties to have fallen by 10% in less than a decade is a harsh reminder that in just a decade, the dynamic of home ownership in the UK has changed.
The recent announcement by the Prime Minister Theresa May that the Government will lift the borrowing cap on councils to allow them to build many more homes has been widely welcomed by the industry and she acknowledged that housing is ‘the biggest domestic policy challenge of our generation’.
Brian Berry, chief executive of the Federation of Master Builders (FMB), called it ‘the most exciting, and potentially transformative, announcement on council housing for many years’. Yes, we have all these announcements which are positive and good news, but if the planning system is going backward then it becomes a case of just empty words and no action.