London / demography / ¿new normal?

Rough notes from an LSE seminar (tidied up next day).  The question whether the new, larger, average size of London households is a “new normal” is from a presentation by Christine Whitehead, one of the speakers.

Christine Whitehead (slides will probably be on LSE web site in due course). Credits Alan Holmans (who will produce a new London housing needs assessment later this year).

Household projections always understimated hh numbers because we didn’t grasp adequately the effects of longevity + age structure + income growth and propensity of richer to live separately.  From early 2000s however the projections began to OVERestimate hh numbers by 330-40,000 p.a.

Recent immigrants form fewer, larger hh initially. And market pressures frustrated hh formation, esp among young – and that started in 1990s (previous crisis).  By 2011 the Eng pop was 500,000 more than expected, but hh lower by 350,000.

Partly 2001 census was wrong (pop count too low) and so the coefficients distorted (births-assumed to be accurately recorded- suggest an erroneously high birth RATE).

Long steady decline in aver hh size from 1951 slowed from 1991 and then flattened from 2000.  Blip or trend?

Less growth of lone parents and one person hh.  Unexpected growth: couples alone, couples+ other adults + other multiperson hh.

However the growth of multi-adult households is heavily in middle-aged, not just 20-35s…   Fewer separations? or more re-partnering?  Anyhow it’s more complicated that just demographics + recession.

Current projections can only be based on 2 points (01 and 11) because the 3-date basis shows such a big change. Dodgy, and we don’t know how to do turning points?

London v England?  will they converge or diverge?

 Neil McDonald next speaker. Diff between old projections of hh and new ones are all over the place: Newham +320% to 165% lower at other extreme.

Pop: 2010-based view:  natural change had been under-estimated in the 2008-based projections + net internat migr also under-estimated.

2011 interim view: more pop growth expected because base-line higher (which would be offset by lowering fertility rate – not yet done).

diff between 2008 & 2011 based growth proj:  London 77% up; england 19% up.

Huge variations in borough-level changes in projected growth are NOT derived from changes to natural change. They come from net internal migration (small changes in large gross numbers)

London headship rates have been falling for a long time (91?) while rising elsewhere; fall esp among 20-34 yr olds

Affordability seems to have been a major factor, more than recession.

Danger that planning on the basis of the lower hh formation rates could be self-fulfilling… by not building enough units

John Lett next. I stopped taking notes because John was very firm about no journalists / Chatham House Rules etc. Clearly he felt nervous about speculating on future scope of next plan and I can understand and respect that.  To my great regret there was no time to discuss what he said because discussion time in the whole event was scant and most of it got used on the demographic issues. However it is shocking that there is so little discussion in any public arena of the scope of the next plan.

He was good on need to protect suburban jobs/space; admitted that retail space needs hugely down compared with 2011 Plan; threw open the ‘hierarchy of centres’ (though far too concerned with retail IMHO) nothing much on housing that I recall. Good on the non-planning barriers to housing delivery (hoarding etc).

Other points:  

Ian Gordon, in discussion, said he had done some analysis of small-area stats for rooms per person, finding country of birth contributed most strongly to variance.

I said that the hh size issue might surely be long-term if we made a different narrative around it:  the lower Londoners’ incomes are, the more they are constrained to live in small space and the harder they find it to set up hh. The growth of income inequality in recent decades (which no-one had mentioned in the whole seminar) combined with the house price/rent explosions of the last decade and shrinking availability of affordable units thus explain the larger households. The ‘recession’ is thus not the ‘explanation’ tho that comes on top of the trend and makes it worse.  While the recession may eventually end, I said, there is no sign at all that growing inequality will end or go into reverse, and no sign that supply of affordable housing will improve.

Curiously, not a soul referred to the benefit cuts throughout, as far as I recall. I would have thought their impact is very strong.



Author: Editors


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