Public Support For New Housing?

The report “Public Attitudes to House Building” was recently published by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG).

Based on the results of the 34th British Social Attitudes (BSA) survey, which was published in 2017, and MHCLG’s own survey data, the report findings suggest a continued move towards support for new housing.

Yesterday’s publication of the 35th BSA report provides further intelligence around some of the social challenges and attitude divisions between the generations that are related to this topic.

The MHCLG’s report states that 55% of people now support new homes being built in their area (up from 28% in 2010) and only 5% strongly oppose new homes in their area (down from 15% in 2010). This positive direction of travel reaffirms the move towards greater support recognised by the National Home Building Federation in their 2017 report “The Demise of the NIMBY”.

Of those who oppose, those aged 65 and over (27% opposed) are the largest group. In contrast, those who least opposed were within the 18 to 34 group (16% opposed) suggesting a distinct division between the youngest and oldest respondents. These results may reflect the differing housing needs and expectations of the two groups, with the younger respondents being far more likely to be in the market for a new home regardless of the intention to purchase or rent.

This perceived generational gap has been captured in yesterday’s publication of the 35th BSA report. More broadly, this year’s results present challenges to media headlines such as 'Generations at war' and a 'Yawning money gap between have and have nots' (Clark, 2017; Hiscot, 2014).

Strongly tied to this are key findings from the 2018 report around a spending settlement on public services. The MHCLG report suggests that there is even more support for new housing if it also delivers more employment or provides health care facilities, transport improvements, more schools or public open spaces.

On the face of it, this is positive news and demonstrates recognition of the need for new housing, as articulated in the Government’s focus on the housing crisis. Public opinion appears to be shifting towards supporting the delivery of much needed new homes as long as it is unlocks investment in infrastructure that is not forthcoming through other sources.

How is this translating into practice?

The degree to which these reported challenges are real are most apparent at the coal face. Planning applications for new housing are as often opposed as they have ever been. Councils in areas of high demand for new homes are often punished at the ballot box for delivering on the pro-development agenda expected of them by the Government through bold Local Plans.

Regardless of this wider challenge, it is useful to recognise that there are always those who are more affected by new developments of any hue, mostly because of proximity to the site or because of the impact on facilities.

These people have a specific perspective which is important, and time and effort should be spent on engaging with them to increase understanding and to manage their perception of change. However, not everything in a local area should be determined by the views of the nearest neighbours; there is always the potential for support from the wider community if engaged thoroughly. It is at this level, as backed by the MCHLG Report findings, that support is likely to be found.
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Credit: Turley, July 2018