Making better use of existing properties to meet the housing demand
As Team GB showed at the Olympics & Paralympics, the aggregation of marginal gains leads to improved performance and individual & collective success. New-build housing cannot provide enough homes to meet demand. Better use must be made of existing property to contribute to supply.
A consequence of living longer is more generations in a family. It is not un-common to have 4 levels in a family. In recent years, central government has made it quicker, easier and cheaper to complete small-scale, single-storey extensions or conversions to benefit growing families. This could be a live-in annexe for relatives, converting a garage into utility room, children’s play area, or guest bedroom.
In 2012, the Coalition Government extended Permitted Development Rights to make it easier to increase housing space. The changes initially applied for a temporary period of 3 years and were not universally welcomed by opponents in Parliament, the professions and the media. The BMF argued that owner-occupiers would not want to carry out projects if they prove to be unpopular, poorly designed, and caused bad feeling between neighbours.
Critics conveniently forgot to explain that, for example:·
- no changes were proposed for home extensions of more than one storey
- houses of multiple occupancy were not included
- local authorities could continue to consult their voters using Article 4 directions
- permitted development only covers planning permission - the Building Regs still apply.
The BMF was grateful to DCLG and DBIS ministers in persuading MPs to allow Permitted Development Rights to be extended and eventually bringing in these changes in planning policy in 2013. It was subsequently decided to make these changes permanent in March 2015.
Our ask of government
is for no new Permitted Development Rights in the near future so the changes can take root. We expect to see numbers steadily increase - especially those based on applications made to local councils for them to decide whether (or not) prior approval is required. Over time, the Government’s quarterly Planning Applications in England statistics will show this.
Upward Extensions in London
As more people gravitate to cities, policy to enable people to ‘build up’ to reduce pressure to ‘build out’ is one way forward. The scale of the problem in London is very stark. According to figures published by the DCLG and London Mayor in February 2016, 49,000 extra homes are required annually. Yet on average, only 25,000 extra units were completed each year since 2008. Of these, fewer than 2% included some element of upward extension.
No-one wants a repeat of bad high-rise housing - but the BMF believes better use can be made of existing buildings. Allowing property to be extended upward, for limited number of storeys, up to the height of adjoining buildings, without needing prior approval, is a good way to do so. In outer London Boroughs, small shopping parades could have extra homes built on top. Owner-occupiers and landlords ought to be allowed to complete properly-considered, un-contentious projects that conform to the rules.
Our ask of government
is to accept that upward extension is not the only solution, but it is a good one, worth pursuing. Demand for housing is far outstripping supply - and enabling cities to ‘build up’ more easily should be introduced as quickly and smoothly as possible.