The charity says even the maximum proposed level of new house building in the plan - the public consultation on which ends today - falls short of what is needed to accommodate population growth and tackle record homelessness and appalling housing conditions (1).
Adam Sampson, director of Shelter, said: 'Tens of thousands of children in the south east are having their futures wrecked by homelessness, overcrowding and bad housing (3). If we fail to tackle these problems today we are not only letting down those families and youngsters who are suffering at the sharp end of the housing crisis - but we are storing up huge problems for the future of the South East.
'Those who argue that we should reduce the level of housing growth need to recognise the scale of the current crisis in affordability and supply. Only a dramatic increase in the number of new social homes built will help those south east families in desperate housing need.
'All new housing must be sustainable and designed to minimise environmental impact, focusing on high-density building in urban areas or on brownfield land. But the question is not whether we build these new homes, but when, where and how quickly.'
Shelter also warns that scaremongering about the effect of new house building on the environment is preventing much-needed homes being built for those homeless and badly housed families who need them.
Independent research carried out for the government shows there is plenty of room to build the homes the South East needs and protect the countryside - even if as many as 120,000 new homes were built every year for a decade, less than one per cent of extra available land in the region would be needed (4).
1. The options for housing growth agreed by the South East England Regional Assembly and put out for consultation (ending today) as part of the draft South East Plan were: 32,000 new homes a year, 28,000 new homes a year or 25,500 new homes a year.
2. The South East England Regional Assembly's own estimates show that the number of households in the region will grow by 28,960 - 34,640 households each year.
This projection does include the rising backlog of homeless, overcrowded and badly housed households in the region who need decent homes.
3. More than 140,000 children in the south east are having their futures blighted by cramped unfit or emergency housing that damages their health and education and robs them of a fair chance in life [Shelter estimate based on official statistics of children living in overcrowded, temporary or unfit housing in England]. 13,340 homeless households are currently trapped in emergency accommodation in the south east [Office of the Deputy Prime Minister homelessness figures for end of December 2004]. More than 100,000 children in the south east are suffering in overcrowded conditions [ODPM Survey of English Housing 2000 - 2003].
4. Economist Kate Barker's 2004 report on housing supply for the Treasury calculated that if the government chose to build an additional 120,000 houses each year over the next decade, all concentrated in the South East (an unlikely and undesirable event), only an additional 0.75 per cent of the total land area of the South East - 1.92 per cent of developable land - would be required.