Family. One word. Yet it comes in many different forms and sizes. So what does the term "family housing" mean from a planning perspective?
There is no statutory definition. All houses are a Class 9 residential use in Scotland. After all, planning is about the use of land, not the user. However, many planning authorities consider a family house to have 3 or more bedrooms. Yet 2 bedroom properties are still considered to produce school children and must contribute towards education infrastructure, which suggests that families may live there. A 3 bedroom house is also often used as the "Standard Housing Unit Equivalent" when planning authorities are seeking contributions towards infrastructure. 4 and 5 bedroom houses count as 1.2 and 1.4 houses respectively, on the assumption that there will be more people living there, and so attract higher contributions.
Yet the average number of people in a Scottish household in 2018 was 2.16, down from 2.27 in 2001.
But just because the average household size is dropping, doesn't mean that everyone wants a smaller house. Different lifestyles lead to different living styles. It is therefore almost impossible to categorise "family housing".
As it stands, the Planning (Scotland) Bill aims to increase the overall number of new homes and proposes the introduction of national housing targets. That alone will not ensure a range of house types to meet the needs of different population groups, including families. Through development plan policies, a planning authority can encourage the provision of a range of housing, be that within a site or a wider area. A good mix of dwelling types and sizes avoids the creation of large areas of housing with similar characteristics, and supports socially diverse and inclusive communities.
In England, the Housing, Communities & Local Government Minister recently announced the forthcoming publication of guidance on building a diverse range of homes on large sites on the basis that a greater diversity of housing on sites with more than 1500 homes will increase build out rates. We may, therefore, see something similar emerging as the Scottish Bill goes through Stage 3.
They say you can't choose your family. But with a greater choice and number of new build houses available, you will be able to choose the family home for you.