Government policy and delayed reforms have brought a “chilling effect” to housebuilding

Property Reporter
13th January 2022
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The government has been heavily criticised and urged to take action to remove barriers to housebuilding if it wishes to meet its target of 300,000 new homes a year, according to the House of Lords Built Environment Committee.

Following an inquiry into the demand for new UK housing and how the obstacles to meeting the need can be overcome, the Built Environment Committee stated that too many people were currently living in “expensive, unsuitable and poor quality homes” with the need to increase housing supply to combat the housing crisis.

In its report, the Committee highlighted the plight of SME housebuilders, the UK’s ageing population, planning reforms and skills shortages. It stated that the SME contingent needed support through reduced planning risk, more small sites being available and increased access to finance.

Other highlights from the report include the need for more specialist and mainstream housing for the elderly, with the Committee pointing out that by 2050, one in four people in the UK will be over 65.

And on planning, the Committee stated that delayed reforms had brought a “chilling effect” to housebuilding, creating uncertainty for housebuilders and planners. The report called for more up-to-date local plans which were “simpler, clearer and more transparent” and better resourced planning departments “to avert an emerging crisis”.

With government figures revealing that skills shortages accounted for 36% of all construction vacancies and 48% of all manufacturing and skilled trade vacancies, the report called for interventions. These included an “urgent reform” of the Apprenticeship Levy, broadening the talent base and upskilling and reskilling with a focus on green skills for the environmental agenda.

The Committee also called for a change in the government’s approach to housing spend, with the report stating that money paid to housing benefit should "over time" be invested in increasing the supply of social housing.

Baroness Neville-Rolfe DBE CMG, chair of the House of Lords Built Environment Committee said: “The government’s ambitious target of 300,000 new homes per year will only be met if government takes action to remove the barriers for housebuilders, particularly for SMEs who 35 years ago built 39% of new homes but now build just 10%.

“Uncertainty and the absence of a clear policy direction has only exacerbated housing problems. Our report provides a package of proposals to help deliver much-needed housing and address the critical undersupply of new homes.”

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