Good housing provides shelter, security, space for family life and activities, privacy, personal identity and development. It is a keystone of individual and community wellbeing. In its 2015 report ‘A Future for Scotland’ the Housing and Wellbeing Commission recognised that good housing is
an essential part of a successful neighbourhood and local community. Good design can help to create a positive appearance and make provision for or help to ensure – accessible links to shops, schools, other local facilities, open space and the countryside and employment opportunities.
essential to allow employees to move to areas where jobs exist. Investment in housing also generates substantial employment,
critical to household income; housing which is ‘affordable’ – that which does not present an excessive burden on household income – reduces the risk of poverty and financial hardship.
It further notes that
“Housing which is secure, adequately heated and free of serious condensation and dampness and which provides adequate space and supports independent living is important for good physical and psychological health and positive educational outcomes.”
“Housing with a high standard of insulation and efficient heating systems will reduce energy use and result in lower greenhouse gas emissions. New building on brownfield sites and on sites close to centres of employment will reduce land take and will help to minimise car-based commuting. New building and some major renovation projects may provide opportunities for using natural processes for drainage, the use of sustainable building materials, improved waste management, improved biodiversity and maximising the use of passive energy.”
The Office for National Statistics’ (ONS) report Measuring National Well-being: Where We Live identifies a strong link between life satisfaction and housing satisfaction across the UK. Of those reporting low satisfaction with their accommodation nearly half reported low satisfaction with their life.
Conwy County Borough contains around 56,700 dwellings to support a population of 116,200[i]. Denbighshire contains around 43,000 dwellings to support a population of 94,700.
In the year ending March 2016 only 314 new homes were built in the area (187 in Conwy CB, 127 in Denbighshire)[ii], despite their Local Development Plans (LDPS) predicting a new dwelling requirement of over 400 each year. This suggests a significant under provision of new housing, and is in part due to the contraction of the construction industry since the global economic downturn of 2008.
As part of their planning duties, Local Authorities also have a specific requirement to provide affordable housing, and the total provision of new dwellings is so low there is a serious risk that this duty is not being met.
Denbighshire Local Development Plan identified a newly arising need for help with affordable housing (both social and intermediate) of between 150-200 additional households a year.
Conwy CB’s 2013 Local Housing Market Assessment identified an annual need of 123 and this is expected to increase when the updated LHMA is published in late 2016, as pressures around housing continue to grow due to supply not keeping pace with demand.
This combined estimate of around 275-325 households in need of help to find affordable housing each year – whilst not solely about new build requirement1 – almost matches the total provision of all new dwellings in the last year. Ideally, given thresholds outlined in LDPs, the affordable requirement would be about 20-30% of the new build total. A level closer to 100% is not deliverable.
At April 2016 the average house price for a property in Conwy CB was £145,450. In Denbighshire it was £139,900[iii].
In Conwy CB the average house price is currently 6.1 times the average household income of £23,750 in and 10.8 times the lower quartile household income of £13,500.
In Denbighshire the average house price is currently 5.8 times the average household income of £23,900 in and 10.4 times the lower quartile household income of £13,500[iv].
This suggests that entering the housing market as a home owner is well out of the reach of the average household
[i] Council Tax, CCBC & mid year population estimates, Office for National Statistics
[ii] Joint Housing Land Availability Studies; Conwy County Borough Council, Denbighshire Council, Snowdonia National Park Authority, Welsh Government, Planning Inspectorate
[iv] PayCheck, CACI & House price index, Land Registry
 For example through placement within existing social housing stock; the provision of supported purchase schemes such as the Home Buy initiative; and through financial support to rent within the private sector (housing benefit)
Between April 2006 and March 2016 the average completion rate for new dwellings and conversions has been around 265 units per year in Conwy CB and 203 per year in Denbighshire. Since the economic downturn in 2007/08 there has been a general downward trend in the number of new dwellings which are built annually.
In Conwy CB, for each year since April 2007 (the start date for the current local development plan) the provision of new dwellings has fallen below the annual figure needed to reach the identified requirement of 6,800 additional dwellings by 2022. In the 9 years to April 2016 only 2,327 additional dwellings have been provided – if the requirement was shared equally across that period, that figure should be closer to 4,080. That is a shortfall of about -1,750 or -43% below target.
New home building in Denbighshire
Source: new dwelling completion statistics, Welsh Government
In Denbighshire, for each year since April 2006 (the start date for the current local development plan) the provision of new dwellings has fallen below the annual figure needed to reach the identified requirement of 7,500 additional dwellings by 2021. In the 10 years to April 2016 only 2,027 additional dwellings have been provided – if the requirement was shared equally across that period, that figure should be closer to 5,000. That is a shortfall of about -2,950 or -59% below target.
House prices have risen considerably since 2000, even taking into account the slow down in the housing market that was seen after the 2007/08 recession. In April 2016 house prices were about a third higher than they were in 2006 (wages increased by about a sixth or 15% in the same period). April 2016 houseprices were over two and a half times or higher than they were in 2000 (about 260% higher) though wages only increased by about 50%.
House price index, April 2016
Source: Land Registry house price index
* An index is a way of measuring relative change over time. If the average house price at April 2000 is taken to be 100, the index shows how prices have changed since that date. For example, an index of 150 means the current price is one and a half times what it was at the start of the index period.
In 2000 the ratio of average wage to house price in the area was about 3.2-3.4. This compares to 5.8-6.1 in 2016
As the population increases in size and the average household size continues to decrease, demand for housing is expected to grow. The trend towards smaller households By far the biggest factor affecting the number of households and average household size in the future is the expected growth in the number of single person households. This is not a trend which is unique to Conwy CB and Denbighshire, but its effect is more pronounced here because of the relatively high number of older people in the population of the area.
Most single person households are pensioners living alone. In 2014 there were 9,150 lone pensioner households2 For example through placement within existing social housing stock; the provision of supported purchase schemes such as the Home Buy initiative; and through financial support to rent within the private sector (housing benefit)in Conwy County Borough and 6,450 in Denbighshire – this was 16.8% of all households, and 51% of all single person households. As life expectancy increases and the large post-World War II baby-boomer generation reaches pension age we can expect to see the number of lone pensioner households increase.
Other factors which have led to smaller average household sizes over past decades have been the trends towards smaller family size and the increase in the number of family break-downs. These trends are expected to continue.
The trend towards smaller households may also be an indicator of the type of housing that needs to be built. In particular the provision of housing that will be suitable to meet the needs of older age groups needs to be considered.
If the need for additional housing continues to outstrip the rate at which extra provision is provided, then there will be an ever increasing back-log of unmet need which will have to be provided for at some stage, as well as all newly arising need. This is likely to put additional pressure on an already overpriced housing market.
Issues around affordability may in part be addressed by simple supply-demand economics. If more houses, of the right type, are built then the upward pressure on house prices caused by a demand that outstrips supply will be relieved.
People want to see housing that is able to meet the needs of residents, including retaining or attracting young people to live in the area.
People would like to see:
• Good quality housing for all
• More affordable housing that is fit for purpose
• Empty buildings turned over for housing where possible
• More environmentally friendly and sustainable housing; making better use of renewable energy
• Improved links between the Council, private owners and housing associations