Professional Builder assesses the industry response to the government’s ambitious housebuilding proposals
A “seminal moment” for UK housebuilding? By committing billions of pounds to building new homes, the government has promised a construction programme that actually delivers, but what does the industry think of the developments?
The crisis of home ownership is inextricably linked to a crisis in house building which is why, faced with some difficult decisions regarding public spending cuts, the government has chosen housing as a priority. New initiatives include the building of 200,000 starter homes with 20% discounts for under-40s, 135,000 shared ownership homes, 10,000 rent-to-buy homes and 8,000 specialist properties for the elderly and disabled. This amounts to a £7bn public investment in new homes.
British Property Federation
Although the proposals have been broadly welcomed, the British Property Federation is urging the administration to consider the sustainability of developments. “Government must understand that new homes must be built in locations with good transport links, social infrastructure such as hospitals and schools, and leisure and employment facilities,” declares Melanie Leech, Chief Executive of the BPF. “No-one wants to live in a new house built in the middle of nowhere, with no shops, jobs or community facilities nearby.”
Chartered Institute of Building
Elsewhere, David Hawkes Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) Policy Officer emphasises that properties must not fall short on build quality, whilst delivery will remain elusive without addressing the industry’s skills shortages.
“There is a need for an average of 100,000 new recruits across the built environment per year between now and 2022, so greater support for Further Education institutions is needed, alongside recognition of the value of high quality apprenticeships and training.
“Although we welcome the news of a further three million apprenticeship starts by 2020, shifting the emphasis on firms to train their own staff, the Government must work closely alongside professional bodies and employers to design and implement high quality, robust standards that meet the needs of the construction industry. Furthermore, clarity on the role of the CITB moving forward must be made to give confidence to employers.”
Federation of Master Builders
That view is echoed by the Federation of Master Builders, who have warned that the 400,000 new homes could be at risk from skills shortages. ‘George the Builder’ [Chancellor, George Osbourne] will need a new generation of ‘real’ builders to make his vision for housing a reality,” contends Brian Berry, Chief Executive of the FMB. “We’re already seeing housing developments starting to stall because the cost of hiring skilled tradespeople is threatening to make some sites simply unviable. Unless we see a massive uplift in apprenticeship training in our industry, there won’t be enough pairs of hands to deliver more housing on this scale. That’s why we’re keen for the Government to tread carefully when applying the new proposed Apprenticeship Levy to the construction industry.”
We therefore hope that in order to address both, the Government will do everything it can to increase house building capacity. SME developers will have an important role to play in delivering the smaller scale sites across the country. The last time we built in excess of 200,000 homes in one year was in the late 1980s when two-thirds of all homes were built by small developers. SME house builders now only build little over one quarter of all new homes which points to another serious capacity issue – we need more small house builders to enter the market and also for SME house builders to crank up their delivery of new homes in order to build the Chancellors 400,000 new affordable homes.”
An admission that the Chancellor “can’t get the housing market under control” is how HUB Residential views George Osborne’s promise to deliver 400,000 new affordable homes.
The £7bn invest ignores the fundamental issue of a lack of affordability across the entire housing market, warns Steve Sanham, development director at HUB Residential: “The problem hasn’t been a lack of ‘affordable housing’, rather a lack of affordability in general. Investment in infrastructure to bring new areas on line for development, and freeing up the bureaucracy of the planning system, are the only ways to bring ‘market homes’ within the reach of first time buyers. New headline grabbing affordable housing initiatives smack of more short-termism, and an inability or unwillingness of the government to grasp the big issues.”
For full details of the government’s plans for the housebuilding industry visit www.gov.uk/government/publications/spending-review-and-autumn-statement-2015-documents