At todays Cornwall Council cabinet there will be a discussion over a proposal to increase the housing target over the next five years to 3,000 per annum.
The argument goes like this:
The Local Plan target of 2,625 is not being met, ‘only’ 2,331 houses are being built.
Borrowing costs are low, so building houses costs less than if borrowing costs were high.
The population is growing by 4,000 a year, so more houses are ‘needed’
More houses mean more council tax.
More houses will meet local need.
But this approach is fundamentally flawed. Why?
Population growth in Cornwall is due solely to in-migration. And here we have to ask ourselves why do people move to Cornwall?
People move because they are sold a myth of a rural paradise (yet with good air links!). Developers help to foster this myth and sell houses by advertising houses in places to meet local need – like South East England. So building more houses means more people moving to Cornwall, not meeting local need!
Local need is different from market demand – as with above market ‘demand’ is generated by marketing strategies.
Developers build houses not for local need but to meet market ‘demand’. Market demand means more people moving to Cornwall, more second homes and more holiday homes.
Now there is nothing wrong with local authorities borrowing money to build affordable homes for local need, but to achieve that you do NOT bump up the housing target. You increase the percentage of total new build which is built for local need.
The total target is not increased but the numbers of affordables as a share of the total is.
In essence instead of developers building what they want, we build what we want and need.
That means amongst other things making sure planning permissions do not allow or encourage homes for buy to let, second homes, holiday homes or homes for people looking to move to Cornwall for lifestyle reasons!
Oh and the extra council tax? That will go to provide the services for the extra residents!