Housebuilders yesterday, Wednesday March 21st, called on housing secretary Sajid Javid and his Labour shadow John Healey to recognise the achievements of the industry in delivering the Government’s housing commitments and for meeting every challenge ministers have laid down. Plus, they called for the Government to work with them to positively position an industry that needs public support, and more recruits, to deliver Government targets.
Speaking at the much anticipated and sold out Home Builders Federation (HBF) Policy Conference, whose members account for some 80% of all new homes built in England and Wales in any one year, Stewart Baseley, HBF executive chairman told ministers:
“Government has quite rightly recognised the social and political need for them to address the chronic housing shortage we face. Housebuilders have risen to the challenge and delivered huge increases in supply, whilst providing increasing contributions to local infrastructure, amenities and affordable housing.
“At the same time the industry has invested hugely in training, recruitment and land to ensure it is geared up to deliver Government promises. The industry has also reacted decisively to reverse the slight, but unacceptable falls in customer service and quality, something that takes commitment from board level down.
“The constant criticism of the industry often fails to recognise the huge progress being made. Negative perceptions also make further increases in supply more difficult by encouraging and providing excuses for the anti-development lobby and Local Authorities who don’t want to build. It also makes attracting the brightest and best people more difficult. House builders across the country face huge challenges getting sites agreed and recruiting skilled workers, issues made more difficult by negative perceptions of the industry.
“The big increases in supply we have seen in recent years are on the back of successful policy introductions and private sector investment. We are calling on Government to continue to work with the industry constructively to deliver further mutually beneficial goals.”
The latest house building statistics reinforce this message and highlight what a contribution and impact private house builders are having:
Housing supply is now above the levels recorded in the post war years and up 74% in four years, the fastest increase in output ever recorded and on track to meet Government’s 1M target
Record number of planning permissions being applied for as the industry demonstrates commitment to deliver further increases in supply and gears up to deliver the Government’s pledges to young people and 300k homes a year.
Help to Buy supporting tens of thousands per year into home ownership
Latest customer satisfaction scores show improvement as industry tackles quality issues and focuses on customer service
Tens of thousands of new employees recruited and trained
Housebuilders made £6bn contributions to infrastructure and local services last year via Section 106 agreements and Community Infrastructure Levy payments. £4Bn went towards affordable housing provision and the industry is now providing half of all affordable homes, something previously paid for entirely from public funds.
Later in the conference, keynote speaker Steve Morgan CEO at Redrow, called on the government to act in three key areas to help the industry to deliver the homes the country needs.
"The government needs to play its part in increasing housing numbers," he said. "We need a speedier and simplified planning system, we need a dramatic reduction in stamp duty tax and we need a commitment on Help to Buy beyond 2021.
"The prime minister said on March 5th 'I expect developers to do their duty for Britain and build the homes our country needs'," he said. "Well, prime minister, I assure you the industry is doing its duty for Britain."
Morgan called for a return to a more efficient planning system, highlighting that when Redrow first started building in the 1980s, sites could be bought and be ready to build on in just six weeks "I remember one difficult planning officer delaying a site and it took eight weeks - I was fuming!" he said.
Continuing his speech he blamed stamp duty for slowing the housing market, calling it a tax on mobility and on the issue of Help to Buy he said that the target of 300,000 homes a year could not be reached without certainty over the policy beyond 2021.
In reply, housing and homelessness minister Heather Wheeler thanked the industry for increasing output but said: "We need more." She highlighted planned changes to the NPPF to help planning and on Help to Buy stressed: "We will ensure we give the industry the notice that it needs."