What do the results of the Housing Delivery Test mean for future housing supply?

April 19, 2022 4 Minute Read


The Housing Delivery Test (HDT) is an annual measurement of housing delivery across the country. Introduced in 2018, the HDT assesses the number of homes built in each English local authority with its housing need over the previous three-years. The outcomes of the HDT reflect delivery levels:

  • More than 95% of housing requirement – Passed - No action
  • 85% - 95% - Action Plan - The local authority must produce an action plan to lay out steps it will take to increase their housing delivery
  • 75% - 85% - Buffer - A 20% buffer will be added to the local authority’s 5-year land supply and an action plan must be produced
  • Less than 75% (less than 45% up until 2020) – Presumption in favour of sustainable development - All planning applications must be granted if they accord with an up-to-date development plan unless the site is protected under the National Planning Policy Framework or the adverse impacts of development significantly outweigh the benefits

The methodology to calculate housing requirement in 2021 was adjusted for the effects of the pandemic. Housing requirement was calculated based off an 8-month period for the 2020/21 year, and an 11-month period for the 2019/20 year. 

28% of local authorities failed their HDT in 2021, which marks a slight improvement over 2020 when 32% failed.

The South East saw the greatest proportion (44%) of local authorities fail the HDT, with 33% facing presumption in favour of sustainable development. This part of England, particularly around The Solent, faces the unique challenge of nitrate neutrality. Since June 2019, new developments in the area must be nitrate neutral to gain planning permission. This has added another planning hurdle to overcome and has slowed down development in the region.

In local authorities that face presumption it should mean, in theory, it will be easier to have planning applications approved. However, in practice, there are further barriers to development across many of these areas. The protection of the Green Belt is a significant limiting factor to how much land can be designated to development. National Parks, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and Sites of Specific Scientific Interest are all protected from development under the National Planning Policy Framework.

Nearly half of local authorities that face presumption in their 2021 HDT see more than 50% of their land area covered by the green belt. This falls to just 11% of local authorities that passed their HDT. Of the 51 local authorities that face presumption this year, 39 faced the same outcome in 2019 and 33 have failed all four HDTs.

Figure 1: Local authorities facing presumption in favour of sustainable development

Source: CBRE Research, DLUHC
Note – Other protected land includes National Parks, Areas of Outstanding Beauty, Sites of Special Scientific Interest and Heritage Coasts

Figure 1 shows that those local authorities facing presumption are largely those surrounded by protected land that inhibits development. Because of this, the effectiveness of the HDT in encouraging housing supply has been and will continue to be minimal. Whilst the test is useful in identifying areas that are undersupplied, it doesn’t provide solutions on how to fix these issues.