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Housing: Mutant algorithm could put Boris Johnsons’ dream of upgrading at risk

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A proposed government algorithm to determine where new houses should be built would result in a huge increase in construction in rural areas and towns in southern England, while in effect reducing the level of development in the North, the residents warned. representatives of local councils.

The Association of Local Governments said planned changes to housing targets will seriously undermine Boris Johnsons’ stated goal of leveling economic activity in deprived areas of the country.

And the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) warned that the mutant algorithm would result in a build-and-be-damned approach that wouldn’t stop high prices from driving young people out of the rural areas where they grew up.

But the Department of Housing, Communities and Local Government insisted the fears were unfounded and promised ministers to reflect on the concerns raised before deciding on the final form of the new system, designed to meet the standards. government pledges to build 300,000 homes per year by the mid-2020s.

Under the current system, only half of the areas have local housing plans in place and their development takes an average of seven years. The new system put into consultation by Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick in August will require a housing plan for each zone, developed and approved within 30 months.

According to the LGA’s analysis, London could expect a 161% increase in the number of houses it needs to build under the new system, while the increase in Brighton and Hove would be 287%, in Dover 294% and at Tunbridge. Wells 184 percent.

Overall, the Southeast would see its targets increase by 57% and the Southwest by 39%, while the number of homes to be built in the Northeast would decline by 28%, with Newcastles forecasting construction of the houses. are down 66 percent, Liverpool 59 percent, Sheffield 20 percent and Leeds 16 percent.

Some of England’s more rural areas would see a requirement for a 59% increase in housing numbers over current plans, compared with a 20% increase in major urban areas, said the LGA, which represents the councils in England and Wales.

Housing organizations spokesperson David Renard said: This seriously jeopardizes any ambition to level the country. Building new, good quality and affordable housing is essential for regenerating our cities, improving our health and well-being, creating jobs, and enabling local economies to thrive and bounce back from the coronavirus pandemic.

Algorithms and formulas can never replace local knowledge and decision making with the councils and communities that know their areas best. If we are serious about addressing our chronic housing shortage, spending reviews must ensure that boards have the tools, powers and flexibilities to plan and deliver the quality homes and places our communities need. . “

Robert Jenrick

CPRE Deputy Director General Tom Fyans said rural areas need well-designed and genuinely affordable housing for young people and key workers who are being evicted from their home areas.

But Mr Fyans said: The centrally imposed housing targets currently proposed by this government could lead to a sharp increase in the number of new homes delivered to rural areas, but that would not improve accessibility and design standards. and could lead to a construction and dam approach. .

There is a lot of wrong with the planning reforms proposed by governments, but addressing the mutant algorithm is just a start we need to see local people having a stronger, not weaker, influence on what is being built and where.

District Council Network vice chairman Tom Beattie said planning reforms Mr Jenrick proposed would lead to a nationwide house-building fiasco based on a muddy formula concocted in Whitehall that ignores local housing needs .

Local communities need housing determined by appropriate evidence, not by arbitrary spreadsheets, he said.

A spokesperson for the MHCLG said the new formula for calculating local housing needs would only be the starting point in the planning process for new houses, with city councils remaining required to take into account local constraints before giving the decision. green light for construction.

The concerns of the LGAs are unfounded, a spokesperson said. The current formula for local housing needs is incompatible with our goal of delivering 300,000 homes by the mid-2020s. We are consulting each other on every element of the indicative formula and will reflect on the feedback we receive so that we can build the homes needed by the next generation.

As in the current system, local housing needs will only be the starting point in the planning process for new homes, and councils will still need to consider local circumstances when deciding how many units can be delivered in their area.

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