Government has grabbed the headlines with its whitepaper “Fixing our broken housing market”. The paper sets out plans to reform the residential sector and boost the supply of homes in England. These include measures to deal with the high cost of renting and more relaxed planning rules.
HBF comments: “the White Paper recognises that it is the private sector house builders that will deliver the majority of the much needed homes in this country, and clearly aims to support them to deliver more sustained increases in supply.”
Head of residential research at JLL comments “this White Paper is likely to prove amongst the most pivotal in a generation” going on to say “the main story here is a Government that has finally decided to prioritise new supply over demand-side stimulus.”
The NBS provide a useful summary of the key points from the whitepaper, sighting affordable rents as the key to boosting construction.
The House of Commons have also addressed the housing demand in a briefing paper Tackling the under-supply of housing in England, looking at the barriers and solutions to increasing supply.
Will these papers make a difference? Is it a pivotal moment for residential construction, as claimed by JLL? The industry still faces a skills shortage and housing has been at the sharp edge of this crisis. An NHBC Foundation report: The gender and age profile of the house-building sector warns of a significant shortfall in workers caused by an over-reliance on an ageing, male-dominated workforce and potential restrictions to migrant labour following Brexit. The Federation of Master Builders (FMB) has reported the skills shortage has spread to other trades. Initially, issues were seen recruiting bricklayers and carpenters but this problem is now being felt in other areas, including plumbers and roofers.
The governments housing whitepaper sights offsite construction as one solution for speeding up delivery. Will housebuilders be able to adapt and take on innovative methods of construction? Perhaps adopting different thinking? Such as using car parks to build hundreds of thousands of new homes. Yet Nigel Walley writes in BIM+ “House building is arguably the BIM industry’s most notable failure to date” Concluding that “Housing clients need to find a unique approach to digitisation to achieve speedy and frictionless delivery. But we may have to accept that while BIM will be part of this, it may not be core to it as it is in other sectors.”
Redrow is sceptical of the paper, saying it is light on information and unfair to present the housing market as broken, when output has increased by 50% over the last three years. This as they announce Its pre-tax profit increased 35pc to £140m in the six months to December 31, and revenue rose 23pc to a first half record of £739m.
This response is echoed by a number of housing experts, with many finding more to criticise than praise when it comes to the government plan. Jonathan Manns, of Colliers International says “The document lacks teeth in key areas, with action against Nimby councils a case in point.”
The Construction Products Association’s response to the whitepaper is that it “was less bold than expected, which raises suspicions that there was some watering down. Instead, it reiterates current policy in place and provides an outline of proposals for future measures, many of which require deeper consultation.”
What are your thoughts? Will the whitepaper create a change in approach or does the government need to be more radical? What changes in approach will deliver large scale construction, quickly, to meet housing demand?