Thursday, March 16, 2006

New House Numbers, Probably Wrong but Useful

Since they published their response to the Barker review in December, the government has been careful to avoid quoting a number for the amount of new houses that are needed; probably a shrewd move. You can imagine the headlines about 5 million new homes being built all over the countryside.

Well the numbers are out now. “New Household Projections of Households for England and the Regions to 2026” was published earlier this week by ODPM. It shows increased projections for new households particularly in the North of England and further evidence of an aging population.

It projects that the number of households in England will to rise from 20.9 million (2003 figure) to 25.7 million by 2026, an annual growth of 209,000. The biggest rise is projected to be in single households, which are set to rise by 53% over the period. Most of the increase is amongst elderly single person households.

About 60% of the projected household growth is within the East, London, South East, and the South West. But most of the additional growth compared with the previous projections is in the North West, Yorkshire and Humberside and in the West and East Midlands.

Should we be care about this? You bet we should! These numbers are going to feed the housing growth projections for the next few years. And a message that we need to be getting over at every opportunity is that some of the new households could be housed by getting empty homes back into use.

As for the numbers, I wouldn’t take them as gospel: There is an old adage about projections. “They’re all wrong, but some are useful”. On that basis I would definitely class these projections as useful.

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