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Report warns of 15,000 house shortfall in Suffolk

06:00 02 February 2016

Housing shortage predicted in Suffolk

Housing shortage predicted in Suffolk

Rob Hyrons

Concerns were raised last night as a new report warned that Suffolk is heading for a shortfall of 15,000 homes by 2026.

The figure, which comes from an analysis of economic growth since the financial crisis, led to claims that a generation risks being “let down” if the shortage is not addressed over the next decade.

The report, measuring current progress against a 10-year forecast, shows that while the labour market soon bounced back to pre-crisis levels, the housing industry was harder hit by recession.

At a meeting next Wednesday, Suffolk County Council’s scrutiny committee will be presented with a breakdown of the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership’s (LEP’s) strategic economic plan for Norfolk and Suffolk.

It reveals housing stock growth “plummeted” in the region, from 1.46% in 2008 to 0.57% in 2013, with building levels shrinking to less than half the pre-crisis rate.

It led to a shortage of more than 3,000 homes in the county last year, when housing stock totalled 334,180 against demand for 337,274. In 2010, supply of housing (325,700) was more than matching demand (325,340).

At the current rate, Suffolk and Norfolk’s housing stock would fall 45% short of the LEP’s 2026 target – with 15,000 too few homes in supply in Suffolk.

The report is clear in pointing out that the LEP’s projection exceeds the expected trend in demand, allowing for future population growth. Meanwhile, it says, the number of homes completed in the region had risen slightly since 2013, coinciding with strong growth in the output and employment of the construction sector.

But, with an additional 95,000 targeted across Suffolk and Norfolk by 2026, Suffolk County Council’s deputy leader, Christopher Hudson, called on developers and decison-makers to hammer out a solution.

“We face a massive shortfall in provision against expectation,” he said. “We are falling short on delivery and risk letting down a generation. We must not underestimate people’s ambition to have their own front door.

“The solution should be both rural and urban. Ipswich is an example of where we need to push ahead and bring more proper affordable housing into the centre of town. We need to reinvigorate our town centres.

“Too many developers are ‘landbanking’ by sitting on what they already have planning permission for. They see movement in the market and want to maximise their investment by doing nothing at all.

“We need to reinforce the needs of the public by giving planning permission with an assurance that building is carried out.”

In Suffolk Coastal, where Mr Hudson represents Framlingham ward, the district has to provide around 7,000 new homes by 2027, with 1,520 of them in market towns.

Taylor Wimpey’s plan to build 163 homes in Fairfield Road, and Persimmon Homes’ plan for 100 houses at Mount Pleasant, are currently the subject of appeals, after both developments were refused by the council’s planning committee last February. Mr Hudson said: “Instead of massive developments in one area, we need to be thinking about spreading them out. Whacking 400 homes into Framlingham is unsustainable and short-sighted.

“Jobs and housing need to go hand in glove. The LEP has to somehow corral these forces, and we need to move at a co-ordinated pace. We have to train our young people in new knowledge economies and give them the chance to own homes. We have to put something back if we want to keep this a ‘united kingdom’.”

Sarah McMonagle, head of external affairs for the Federation of Master Builders, argued that the emphasis should be on local authorities, rather than LEPs, to play an important role in attracting new market entrants to the house building sector.

“The decline of the local builder was swift in the aftermath of the financial crisis and it gutted the country’s house-building capacity,” she said. “However, too often, councils throw up unnecessary hurdles that harm small developers. It smacks of short-termism.

“Whether it be a failure to provide the small sites required by SME (small and medium-sized) developers, or lumbering them with onerous planning costs, councils aren’t doing enough to remove the barriers to SME house-builders and empower them to build more new homes.

“There are many advantages to increasing capacity among SME house builders – if you divide a large site between several SMEs, those homes will be built more quickly and available to purchase sooner, as the business model for smaller developers favours a rapid turnaround.

“We appreciate that local authority planning departments are severely under-resourced as a result of funding cuts, which makes life difficult for them, but this doesn’t mean they can’t help facilitate the creation of a diverse and growing house building sector, which we so sorely need.”

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