Thanet's New Local Plan - Options consultation

Issue 8 - How many homes do we need to provide?

Introduction

Why do we need to address this issue?

We need to provide sufficient homes in Thanet in order to accommodate a growing population and to help create sustainable communities.

The South East Plan, a regional plan approved by Government in 2009, required us to plan for at least 7,500 extra homes in Thanet over the 20 year period to 2026. Government has since abolished that Plan and local councils are responsible for deciding how many homes are appropriate for their area. We now need to decide how many additional homes we will need to provide for over the Local Plan period to the year 2031.

National planning policy expects our Local Plan to fully meet objectively assessed need for market and affordable housing in the housing market area, taking account of household and population projections, need for all types of housing and housing demand.

What evidence we have on this issue

We have carried out an assessment of the Housing Market (Strategic Housing Market Assessment - SHMA) alongside other authorities in East Kent. This has been supplemented by demographic and economic modelling to determine likely future households and housing requirements. We are updating our assessment of sites that may be available and suitable as future housing land (Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment - SHLAA). A Housing Topic Paper has also been prepared setting out the considerations in detail and containing additional supporting information.

Key Facts and Information

The following key facts are important when considering how many homes we need to provide.

  • Thanet's housing market area is essentially self-contained.
  • Thanet has traditionally seen out-migration of the younger age groups, and in-migration of the older age groups, with people looking to retire in the District.
  • Over the past 10 years we have built 5268 new homes (including conversions of existing properties).
  • Over the 5 year period to 2012 we brought about 500 empty properties back into use as homes.
  • National forecasts suggest Thanet's population will grow by 11,500 between 2011 and 2021 (Source ONS interim 2011 sub national population projections).
  • Thanet has an ageing population and reducing labour supply.
  • New homes will need to be provided in order to meet the needs of Thanet's existing residents, as well as those moving in to the District.
  • Due to the ageing population and changes to the existing population structure, we will need to attract working people to Thanet.
  • There is a high level of need for affordable homes.
  • At present more people commute out of Thanet for work than into it, and this is expected to continue in the future.
  • Population forecasts indicate there will be an increase in single person households in the future.

We have developed five scenarios as a starting point for considering the number of homes that should be provided. These are based upon potential changes in future population and households taking into account changes to the existing population, assumptions about economic growth and the number of people coming in to Thanet. It is important to note that these five scenario-based forecasts do not give us the answer but provide a starting point to assist the debate.

Table 6 - Dwelling Forecast Scenarios

Scenario

Explanation

Extra homes needed 2011-2031

(annual average required)

1. Zero Migration

Theoretical illustration of how Thanet's population would change if in and out migration were assumed to be equal. This is useful in order to understand how the existing population is expected to change.

3,714 (186)

2. Economic Lower Growth

 

 

Based on predicted employment growth of, 1229, 3082 and 5071 jobs respectively. The economic scenarios assume that any shortfall in the resident workforce will be met by people coming to live in Thanet. However, such incomers will include some non-economically active migrants which may include elderly people but also for example children of economically active migrants.

  

7,600 (380)

3. Economic Baseline

9,639 (482)

4. Economic Higher Growth

11,791 (590)

5. Trend Migration

Assumes past migration levels continue at the same rate as over the past five years.

11,648 (582)

 

The forecasting model assumes the following:

  • Unemployment rate decreasing steadily from current levels to 3% by 2031.
  • A commuting rate of 1.10, where more people are commuting out of Thanet to work than in.
  • An allowance for empty property with a steady reduction from a dwelling vacancy rate of 5.65% to 5% by 2031.

Considering how many homes we need to provide

Along with the key facts and information above, the following are factors to take into account and to help you consider how many homes we need to provide.

Who do we need to provide homes for?

We need to provide sufficient homes to meet the needs of local people. We also need to provide for people moving into Thanet. Past patterns show that people migrate to the District, and this is likely to continue in the future, particularly older people looking to retire. In-migration is also important to help secure mixed communities and to make sure there is a sufficient workforce to support economic growth.

The level of housing provision needs to be consistent with the overall vision of the Local Plan. Priority and aspiration should therefore be attached to factors such as economic growth and developing more balanced communities across Thanet.

Only providing housing at a level that will meet the needs of the existing population (as illustrated in the zero migration forecast) is not a realistic option as it would conflict with the key messages of national planning policy.

Homes to support economic growth

The economic scenario forecasts assume that any shortfall in the resident workforce will be met through in-migration. Such in-comers will also include some migrants who are not working, including elderly people and also children of migrants. Competition to attract working in-comers is likely to be strong across East Kent.

Housing numbers associated with the economic lower growth scenario are similar to those in the South East Plan which represented a likely minimum level to be provided for. Under this scenario Thanet's labour supply would decrease.

Housing numbers associated with the migration trend and economic higher growth scenarios are similar to the actual level of dwelling completions experienced in Thanet over the last 5 years. This level of delivery has not resulted in improved local economic or employment growth and a significant element of it has been in flats.

The need for economic and employment growth remains a priority for Thanet, and availability of sufficient quality housing is important to achieve it. If higher job growth levels are achieved then continuation of recent dwelling completion rates may be appropriate. However, if employment growth does not meet this level, providing for this number of new homes may risk an increase in the number of economically dependent migrants to Thanet. This is a significant consideration in light of the implications of the Welfare Reform Act for benefit rules which may cause in-migration by benefit dependent households to areas with a supply of cheap rented property. It is also possible of course that some of these homes could be occupied by people working outside Thanet.

The economic forecasts that have been considered in this paper do not make any allowance for an increase in employment that may arise from the Airport. If there is significant job growth at the airport there may be a need to provide additional housing alongside it.

What are the different effects of the five scenarios?

Table 6 illustrates how much housing might be required alongside the five scenarios which are based on differing assumptions about population and job growth.

The population, age structure (including age structure of in-comers), make up of household types, and size of labour supply vary between the five scenarios, and are important considerations in assessing the impact of the scenarios and level of housing that might be appropriate.

All scenarios indicate:

  • a decrease in the number of families with dependent children, and of larger households with or without children.
  • an increase in the number of people beyond retirement age
  • an increase in the number of childless couples and lone parents, and, (more substantially) an increase in one person households.

Thanet's resident workforce would decrease under the Zero Migration and Economic Lower Growth scenarios.

The Zero Migration scenario would result in the loss of young and working age people.

The Migration Trend and Economic Higher Growth scenarios would result in the highest level of increase in young people and working age people.

Affordable homes

The need for affordable housing in Thanet and its neighbouring areas is very high. The households in need of affordable housing are included in the forecasts above.

One way of meeting the need is to require residential planning applications to include an element of affordable housing. A study of market viability suggests that delivery of housing schemes may be compromised if we were to require an element of more than 30% affordable housing.

In theory the higher the overall amount of housing we plan for the higher the number of affordable homes that may be delivered as part of it. However, the level of need for affordable homes is so substantial that aiming to meet it all would have very significant implications for the amount of overall housing land that would need to be identified to accommodate it.

Finding land for the new homes

National planning policy expects us to meet objectively assessed needs for new homes unless this would be significantly outweighed by other policies within it. It applies great weight to the most important wildlife sites (which in Thanet's case are essentially located at and around the coast). However, building on countryside, would not in itself be a constraint on the number of new homes that should be built.

Nonetheless locally important considerations, such as protecting the separate identities of the Thanet towns, need to be factored in when considering future housing land options for the District. We are updating an assessment of land that is available for housing (SHLAA), which looks at a pool of sites in Thanet for their housing potential. This includes taking account of environmental factors that may be affected if they were developed. Work to date suggests that the urban area containing the coastal towns and some undeveloped sites (as defined in the Local Plan 2006) may have capacity to accommodate in the region of 5000 additional homes by 2031.

Empty property brought back into use can make a valuable contribution to housing requirements. Where the empty property was in non residential use it represents a true addition to the overall housing stock.

The scenario forecasts referred to earlier assume a modest reduction in the percentage of vacant dwellings from 5.65% to 5% over the period 2011-2031. Forecast dwelling requirements would be correspondingly reduced if a higher reduction in empty dwellings is achieved and vice versa. The removal of Council tax reductions on empty property and other measures that might be introduced to penalise long empty property could serve to increase the number of empty properties brought back into use.

Market Demand and Delivery

An independent economic viability study of housing development in Thanet notes the difficulty of assessing the overall dwelling capacity the market can deliver year on year. However, it indicates that in general housing development will be viable even after a level of contribution has been made towards affordable housing and other supporting infrastructure.

Net dwelling delivery over the last 5 years has averaged 600 units per year, and has been as high as 889 in a single year. Through this consultation and other exercises we are gathering further information about the number of new homes the market may be capable of delivering.

What infrastructure and services will be needed to support the new homes?

We are working with the agencies and bodies responsible for delivering and regulating infrastructure such as transport, utilities and community facilities. This work will help identify the infrastructure that would need to be provided alongside different levels of future housing.