Last week, MHCLG published further revisions to the NPPF and the results of the Housing Delivery Test*. This blog is not about either of those big events. Instead, it focuses on two stories that I saw on the BBC website, which highlight the effects of under delivery.
On the face of it, the stories do not have much in common. The first, published on 21 February, highlights the personal stories of several young couples who are living in 'alternative' types of accommodation - a van, shipping containers and a 'tiny moveable home' which appears to be a combination of a wood cabin and an old fashioned shepherds hut**.
The second, published on 25 February, is an exposé of short term lettings companies who have been caught encouraging people to flout the rules against renting homes in London out on short term, Airbnb style, lets for more than 90 days a year, without express planning permission***.
The common thread that links both of these stories is a failure to deliver sufficient housing stock.
The reasons given for living in 'alternative' homes are varied, but frequently come back to affordability. The couple living in a converted shipping container, left London due to property prices and are building their own home on part of a family farm. The 30 year old building a 'tiny home' "believes owning a more conventional home is simply out of reach, having only just worked himself out of his university debt.". This lack of affordable homes is a result of years of under-delivery. The fact that we have been building fewer homes than we need, year after year, has created scarcity in the market, pushing-up house prices.
This scarcity of housing is one of the reasons that the short term lettings exposé is deemed so shocking. When homes are in scarce supply, breaking the rules over turning a home into what is effectively a holiday let, feels morally wrong. Platforms which were intended to allow people to make a little extra money by renting out their flat whilst they are on holiday, become tools for replacing those homes with holiday accommodation. This would be much less problematic if there were sufficient homes available in the first place. Then, platforms which enable and encourage tourism could be seen as a way of complementing and diversifying the housing market, instead of being in direct competition with it.
It will take several years for the Housing Delivery Test to have an impact, but if it can help tackle the root cause of these symptoms - our chronic under-delivery of new housing - then it must be a welcome development.
* which showed that approximately one third of local authorities had failed to deliver enough homes to meet their housing need. See: https://www.egi.co.uk/news/a-third-of-local-authorities-fail-to-meet-housing-need/?cmpid=NLC|EGIx|EGDAM-2019|glob&sfid=701w0000000wsbx
** see link below
The tiny homes movement is growing in popularity in the UK - having gained traction in the United States - with the outlay for these diminutive dwellings coming in as low as £2,500. People living in tiny houses say they are reducing their energy costs as well as their carbon footprints. Carwyn Lloyd-Jones, who teaches the "tiny homes" building course at CAT, said it had certainly attracted younger people looking for a cheaper alternative. "It's because they want to have that space to live in, but they are not necessarily able to afford that plot of land to build a full-size house," he said.