Part of the ongoing debate about the housing targets is the issue of waiting lists.
Data on housing need is available on the Cornwall Home Choice website. The latest figures give a total of 29,000. To the man or woman on the Truro omnibus this might conjure up an image of 29,000 homeless households and hence a need to build 29,000 dwellings to meet this need. The real situation is not quite as it might appear.
There are also various reasons for people registering. Analysis of the June 2010 data outlines the factors leading to registration. Of the 11,332 on the list, 1,710 required different accommodation for health or disability reasons, 1,382 needed a larger property, 482 a smaller property, 1,331 were losing their current home for ‘other’ reasons, 886 had difficulty paying their rent or mortgage, 782 were under threat of eviction or asked to leave. We can assume that households in these categories were already in accommodation but circumstances were such that they might need other accommodation. In effect households would be switching accommodation, as they moved out we assume someone else couldl move in.
Further interrogation of the figures enables us to pick out those households where it is more obvious of the need for dwellings to be available. These are: Need independence ; Relationship breakdown ; Domestic violence/harassment ; Leaving supported housing/care/foster/residential home ; in temporary accommodation/homeless .
Of the 11,300, 10,200 were resident in Cornwall.
Whether housing need figures for a particular area represent ‘local’ need or need from elsewhere in Cornwall is not so obvious as it might seem.
This is because households who are in need of affordable housing are likely to gravitate towards cheaper areas if there is a large shortfall in supply in their ‘home town’ area. [Cornwall housing Market].
The housing need data provides one facet of why need occurs in Cornwall. Obviously a major factor is the lack of affordable housing available – due to the mismatch between incomes and property prices.
Rather than accepting the mantra that we simply build more houses – on the off-chance that some will be affordable and some might be available for those in need, we should adopt a different approach.
Five points are relevant here.
- Housing need as indicated on the register is not necessarily the same as a need for new dwellings;
- Just building more houses will not solve the problem;
- Relying on building unaffordables to provide affordables is not going to work, we just build more high-priced dwellings, which are built to subsidise the affordables, which oddly enough creates the problem we are trying to solve, high-priced dwellings;
- We need to directly fund affordable dwellings instead of the current developer led approach, and;
- we also need to reduce demand in Cornwall so that house prices reflect incomes here not incomes in more affluent areas.
For more why not visit the Core Strategy evidence base and read The Cornwall Housing Market Strategic Evidence Base, 2010 Update, Full Report