As more babies are being born to St Albans mothers, it is very likely that this trend will continue to increase the demand for properties in St Albans and materially affect the market for years to come.
On the back of eight years of incremental increasing birth rates, a significant 20.57 babies were born for every new home that was built in the St Albans Council area in 2016. I believe this has and will continue to amplify the St Albans housing shortage, meaning demand for housing, be it to buy or rent, will remain high. The high birth rate is another contributing factor to why St Albans property prices and rents have remained resilient – even with the challenges the economy has felt over the last eight years - and they will continue to remain high in the years to come.
This ratio of births to new homes has reach one its highest levels since 1945 (back in the early 1970s the average was only one and a half births for every house built). Looking at the local birth rates, the latest figures show residents in the St Albans Council area had an average of 66.8 births per 1,000 women aged 15 to 44. Interestingly, the national average is 61.7 births per 1,000 women and for the region its 64.7 births per 1,000 women.
The number of St Albans births for women between the ages of 20 to 29 is much lower than the national average, but for those between 35 and 44 it is significantly higher. However overall, the birth rate is still increasing, and when that fact is combined with ever-increasing life expectancy, the high levels of net migration into the area over the last 14 years and the higher predominance of single person households … this can only mean one thing ... a huge increase in the need for housing.
In a previous article, I suggested that an increasing number of people are feeling more settled in rented accommodation and perhaps this is contributing to the increase in births. Certainly renting is becoming more of an option for some St Albans people.
The planners and politicians of our local authority, central Government and people as a whole need to recognise that with individuals living longer, people having more children and with divorce rates still relatively high (meaning one household becomes two households) ... demand for property is simply outstripping supply.
Only 6.1% of the country is built on by residential houses/flats, gardens and shops/offices. Now I am not suggesting we build tower blocks in the middle of the Cotswolds, but we need to carefully consider our approach to building on land and carefully consider our options.
Yes, we need to build on brownfield sites first, but there aren’t hundreds of acres of brownfield sites in St Albans, and what brownfield sites there are, building on them can only work with complementary public investment. Many such sites are contaminated and/or aren’t financially viable to develop, so unless the Government puts its hand in its pocket, they will never be built on.
I am not saying we should crudely go ‘hell for leather’ building on our green belt, but we need a new approach to enable some parts of the countryside to be regarded more positively by local authorities, politicians and communities and allow considered and empathetic development. Society in the UK needs to look at the green belts outside their leisure and visual appeal, and assess how they can help to shape the way we live in the most balanced way.