“I want to send the clearest possible message to housebuilders that we the Government will make sure the land is available, we’ll make sure you have the skills you need, and in return, you must do your duty to Britain, and build the homes our country needs.” Will Theresa May’s message to housebuilders make a difference? The reaction from the industry is overall a positive one, yet there are some obstacles to overcome.
The National Housing Federation (NHF) recently called on the government to urgently address the lack of new housing and social rented homes. Chief Executive David Orr feels “it is ‘absurd’ that the government is spending less on social housing now that in the 1990s while paying increasing sums to private landlords via housing benefits.”
The NHF report that the amount of capital committed by the government to homebuilding has decreased from £11.4bn in 2009 to £5.3bn in 2015. The NHF have not surprisingly welcomed Theresa May’s announcement at the recent Conservative Party Conference, saying the promise of an additional £2bn to social housing “will make a real difference to those let down by a broken housing market.”
The NHF also welcomes Jeremy Corbyn’s announcement that Labour will undertake a review of social housing policy over the coming year. Yet the National Housing Federation warn that we need to be having the right debate, Chief Executive David Orr expresses concerns that “we may be asking the wrong question. We are lining up a review of the role and function of social housing…we need to be asking how we provide decent, affordable homes for everyone.”
Brian Berry at the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) says this is an “opportunity to help shape a stronger local house building industry. If councils can start to engage with smaller, local builders to deliver this new generation of council housing, it could further help to diversify the industry.” Although he warns that “the Government must also be mindful and realistic about the continuing need there will be for skilled EU workers as it puts in place its post-Brexit immigration policy.” Going on to say “the increased use of small and medium-sized building firms will limit the problem of land banking, as this is something small builders simply don’t do.”
Recent research from the FMB highlights that a lack of small sites and limited finance are the most significant challenges to the SME housebuilder. The results of the FMB House Builders’ Survey show that a lack of available and viable land is the most commonly cited barrier (62%) to increasing output.
The FMB also say that the Lib Dem Leader Vince Cable is right to call on the Government to allow local councils to borrow to build. Concluding that “investment by local authorities in a new generation of social housing would deliver many more homes that the country needs urgently. This could also help aid the expansion of private sector output by providing more opportunities for SME builders.”