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Welsh Government Housing Need Estimates by Tenure
On 5 June 2019 the Welsh Government released a publication that splits its 2018-based national and regional estimates of housing need for the years 2018/19 to 2022/23 into two tenures:

  1. Market housing (defined as owner occupier [1] and private rent); and,
  2. Affordable housing (intermediate and social rent) [2].

The methodology applied to generate these figures, which is based on the Housing Need and Demand Assessment (HNDA) tool developed by the Scottish Government, is illustrated in Figure 1.

Figure 1: 2018-based housing need estimates: Methodology

Source: Welsh Government Statistical Article (5 June 2019)

This latest publication takes the overall levels of housing need published in January 2019 as its starting point and so carries forward the assumptions previously applied – assumptions which, as recognised to some extent by the Welsh Government, serve to suppress the level of need. Five different scenarios are presented, based on different demographic and migration patterns.
Of the central estimate of need of 8,300 dwellings per annum across Wales from 2017/18 to 2022/23, the Welsh Government breaks this down into:

  1. 4,400 dwellings per annum (53%) as market housing; and,
  2. 3,900 dwellings per annum (47%) as affordable homes.

Table 1: National estimates of housing need by tenure (5-year averages: 2022/23)

Source: Welsh Government 2018-based estimates housing need

These arresting figures indicate a need for almost half of all new dwellings in Wales to be provided as affordable housing. It is unclear how this level of provision could be met using existing mechanisms, given that a substantial proportion of affordable housing is delivered through section 106 agreements, where viability considerations will (to a greater or lesser extent) limit the proportion of affordable homes that can be provided. Experience from existing viability assessments demonstrates that even in the strongest market areas affordable housing provision is rarely higher than 25 to 30%. In many parts of Wales, the level of provision that can be justified is significantly lower.

By comparison, in the 20 years from 1999/2000 to 2018/19, affordable housing constituted only 11% of all completions. This indicates that a requirement for almost half of all housing delivery to constitute affordable homes is not realistic under current delivery mechanisms.

If increased levels of affordable housing are to be delivered this will have to be accomplished in ways outside of the traditional section 106 approach. There is also a need to consider the extent to which overall housing delivery should be increased to help deliver additional affordable homes through section 106 agreements. For example, while the delivery of 3,900 affordable homes per annum would not be feasible under a requirement for 47% affordable housing (out of a total of 8,300 homes), it would be more likely as a smaller proportion of a larger overall housing requirement (e.g. 30% of a total of 13,000 homes). Increasing overall housing delivery would also have the added benefit of improving affordability of open market housing.

It is therefore imperative that policymakers heed the Welsh Government’s admonition that these figures should not be translated directly into housing targets. As is the case with the overall housing need estimates, the Welsh Government has clearly stated that they are merely intended to form a basis for discussion to aid policy decisions. If enacted in policy, the published figures would serve to choke off essential delivery of all types of housing, as development would simply be unviable.

The tenure breakdown of the central estimates for the three identified regions of Wales (2018/19 to 2022/23) is indicated in Table 2.

Table 2: Regional estimates of housing need by tenure (central estimates) (5-year averages: 2018/19 to 2022/23)


Source: Welsh Government 2018-based estimates of overall housing need 

The estimates of housing need broken down by tenure cover a five-year period only – to 2022/23 (at the end of which Welsh Government expects the existing levels of unmet need to have been cleared). The Welsh Government intends to review the overall estimates of need with the next publication of the household projections (due to be released in October 2019). It is not yet known when the estimates broken down by tenure are likely to be published.
Alongside the estimates, the Welsh Government has helpfully published an Excel-based tool to allow users the opportunity to test the impact of alternative assumptions on both the overall need for housing and its tenure split.

The key assumptions that can be flexed include:

  1. Household projections (official projections or modelling provided by the user);
  2. Existing unmet need;
  3. Household income (current and future (and distribution));
  4. Private rental prices (current and future); and,
  5. Affordability criteria.

The tool also enables a further breakdown into a total of four tenures, with market housing split into owner occupied and private rented and affordable housing split into intermediate and social rented.

The Welsh Government has recognised that adjustments to the assumptions applied within each of the model’s criteria can make a significant difference to the estimates for Wales and its regions. For example, the default assumption is that households that can afford a 2- or 3-bedroom property based on spending 30% of their household income should be considered suitable for market housing. When considering this variable, policymakers should be careful not to assume that it is acceptable for households to spend large proportions of their income on housing out of necessity. If the affordability threshold is reduced from 30% to 25% of household income, the proportion of need for affordable housing would increase from 47% to 55% in the central estimates for Wales.

It is therefore vital that policymakers test a range of possible scenarios when setting housing requirements. This is particularly important given the current national context of economic uncertainty.

The publication of the estimates of housing need by tenure is to be welcomed as a credible starting point for the assessment of need that will inform housing requirements in the emerging NDF and forthcoming SDPs. More importantly, it is reassuring to see that the Welsh Government has acknowledged the need to test the impact of different assumptions and has highlighted a number of these sensitivities. However, it is vital that the estimates are treated as a starting point only.

What is noticeably absent from the analysis is a consideration of the links between homes and jobs, which are so important for the functioning of sustainable communities. In South East Wales, the Cardiff City Deal is seeking a step change to achieve “truly transformational change” in order to boost the local economy. This will rely on moving away from past trends (which are reflected in the 2014-based household projections) to result in different outcomes in the future.

Fundamentally, the estimates do not (and cannot, as policy-neutral statistics) seek to identify the number and tenure split of homes required to attract and retain workers to support the Welsh economy. It is therefore up to policymakers to take this next step to ensure that housing and economic objectives are aligned in the emerging NDF and future SDPs.


[1] Including Help to Buy and Intermediate Low Cost Home Ownership (e.g. Homebuy and Shared Ownership)

[2] This differs slightly from the Technical Advice Note 2 Planning and Affordable Housing (2006) definition of affordable housing, which includes intermediate housing for purchase, including via equity sharing schemes (for example Homebuy).



How can placemakers help to reduce loneliness?

How can placemakers help to reduce loneliness?

Helen Ashby-Ridgway 21 Jun 2019
Last week was Loneliness Awareness Week, a week established by the Marmalade Trust to raise awareness of loneliness and social isolation, to reduce the stigma of loneliness and to help people connect. This will be its third year and the movement is growing. This isn’t surprising when studies have shown that in the UK more than 9 million people always or often feel lonely[1]

The Costa Book Award winning novel Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine was written by its author Gail Honeyman after she had read an article on the subject of loneliness which reported on an interview with a young lady who said she would come home from work on a Friday and then wouldn’t speak to anyone again until Monday morning. Such a situation seems incredibly sad but worse yet, extensive research shows that loneliness poses a number of risks to physical and mental health, including:

  • Increased risk of developing coronary heart disease and stroke (Valtorta et al, 2016),

  • Increased risk of high blood pressure (Hawkley et al, 2010)

  • Greater risk of cognitive decline (James et al, 2011)

  • Higher risk of the onset of disability (Lund et al, 2010)

  • More prone to depression (Cacioppo et al, 2006) (Green et al, 1992)

  • Predictive of suicide in older age (O’Connell et al, 2004); and,

  • One study concludes that lonely people have a 64% increased chance of developing clinical dementia (Holwerda et al, 2012).

Some of the studies are more worrying. Not long ago a stark headline was being carried by a number of newspapers. A meta study (a study of studies) of some 3.4 million people by Professor of Psychology Julianne Holt-Lunstad and her research team[2] had concluded that weak social connection has the same risk of death as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Moreover, according the findings it doesn’t matter whether the loneliness is perceived or actual the risk to health remains the same[3].

The NHS ‘Behind the Headlines’ critique of this particular study concluded that the research ‘provided some evidence that the isolation was causing ill health, rather than the other way round, but we can't be certain[4]’. Whether or not this particular headline is as troubling as it appears the remaining evidence that suggests that loneliness and social isolation can have adverse impacts upon our health and well-being and upon the UK economy. Research reported by the Co-op suggests that loneliness costs UK employers £2.5 billion per year.

Causes of loneliness

The causes of loneliness are not surprising. They include but are not limited to:

  • Changes in day-to-day routines (such as retirement),

  • A lack of or loss of friends (such as through bereavement or divorce),

  • Restricted mobility, cognitive and sensory impairment or other causes of poor physical health (which then create a vicious circle),

  • Financial limitations (limiting ability to participate in activities),

  • Personal characteristics (such as age, stage in life, ethnicity, sexual orientation); and,

  • Neighbourhood characteristics (such as a lack of amenity, layout of streets, crime).

Loneliness is not only restricted to those who are alone or are of a particular age group.  “Young or old, loneliness does not discriminate” said the late Jo Cox MP who, with her colleague Seema Kennedy MP, set up a cross-party Loneliness Commission in 2016.

Source: ONS analysis of Community Life Survey August 2016 – March 2017

Creating spaces that reduce social isolation

National and many local planning policies seek to ensure that developments create healthy and safe communities. Many of the recent call to action publications by a variety of respected organisations, charities and commissions focus on a wide range of measures to improve loneliness and to reduce social isolation. However, not as much has been written in these documents about how the built environment can contribute to tackling its causes.

As place makers we can help to create places that encourage social connection and to create spaces that people want to use and are able to use that are safe and secure and that are accessible to all.  These are just a selection of ways that creating spaces and places can help to increase both formal and informal social interaction which may in turn help to reduce loneliness:

  • Making dementia-friendly spaces that are designed to encourage people out of their homes, with connections and routes that are accessible and safe (The RTPI has published practice advice on this);

  • Ensuring that amenities and facilities are in walking distance and the routes to these places are safe, legible and encourage more people to use them;

  • Delivering a range of places for leisure activities and where people can meet - from community halls to bowling greens, and from public squares to public footpaths;

  • Including facilities for physical activity such as formal parks and informal open spaces, playgrounds for children where parents can mingle, as well as allotments for all ages;

  • Ensuring that the spaces to meet are safe, with excellent natural surveillance through active frontages and well-considered layouts;

  • Creating jobs and educational opportunities with further enhancements by creating dedicated indoor and outdoor spaces for people to meet during lunch breaks (rather than eating a sandwich at a desk); and,

  • Places for cultural activities through formal and informal spaces such as heritage assets, coastal paths and outdoor theatres.

Understanding why places and spaces are important in helping to combat loneliness is a good starting point. Indeed, many of the measures are integral to high quality urban design decisions but can be easily missed although our experience, from working on health impact assessments for a number of projects, is that the measures can be simple and often not costly.

Whilst we cannot solve the factors causing loneliness entirely, placemakers can be part of a range of measures that help.