BIS orders housing labour study from ex-Arcadis expert

5 February 2016

The government has launched a review focused on how to de-couple the housing industry from the employment patterns and skills shortages that restrict output, while the Labour Party has also announced a review to look into the causes of falling homeownership and the future direction of homeownership trends.

The “Construction Labour Model Study” will be overseen by the Construction Leadership Council, and has been commissioned from Mark Farmer, former head of residentila at Arcadis and co-author of an Arcadis report on housing published last year called People and Money.

According to the Department for Business Innovation and Skills, the review will “investigate the labour model in the construction industry and develop an action plan to address the skills pressures and other constraints that limit house building and infrastructure development in the UK”.

Simon Rawlinson, head of strategic insight at Arcadis and a member of the Construction Leadership Council, told Construction Manager: “Last year, People and Money demonstrated that to get to 240,000 homes a year, house building would need an extra 90,000 people, soaking up all the skills across the industry. But you cannot separate the labour market from the overall business models of the house building industry.

“So if we’re unlikely to build a labour force on the current model of housing delivery, how do you generate additional volume in house building over a period, and create incentives and attractive career opportunities for people?”

An expert panel is due to be appointed to support Farmer’s work, but Rawlinson also stressed that the review would be “open”, with opportunities for “anyone in the industry to submit opinions or additional data or alternative approaches to construction for consideration to BIS”.

As The Guardian points out, the two new reviews will join a growing pile of reports investigating the underlying reasons for the housing shortfall and affordability crisis in England and Wales.

The Barker Review of Housing Supply by economist Kate Barker in 2004 recognised that house price inflation was putting homes out of reach for a growing slice of the population, while the Calcutt Review of Housing Delivery in 2007 by John Calcutt, formerly a chairman of English Partnerships and chief executive of builder Crest Nicholson, looked at the nature and structure of the house building industry, its business models and supply chain.

The Labour party also commissioned the Lyons Housing Review in 2014, which recommended a new era of garden cities and reduce planning permission to two years to prevent house builders “blocking” sites and open up the market for SME house builders.

In addition, in 2013 an expert panel headed by Professor John Miles of Cambridge University and Professor Nick Whitehouse of Oxford Brookes University produced a government-backed report into offsite housing that recommended house builders and manufacturers should be given tax breaks to encourage wider uptake of factory built homes.

This report was followed by the creation of a new working group to stimulate innovation in housing.


Successive governments were warned repeatedly over 30 years about how the labour market trends and spiralling housing cost would lead to the situation we now have and yet they all chose to do nothing, it's almost criminal how this situation has been allowed to fester. The time for action was about a decade ago. It's too far gone for a quick fix now, and too much money has been invested into property. Someone has to lose to right it and at the minute the older generations reap the profit and good fortune, the younger generation pay for it, and so will our children. The technology is there right now to [build] offsite, it's just we lack the will to deploy it or back it.
I also blame the big six house builders, who are not in the business of building homes, but are more in the business of banking land so no one else can build.

Scott, 5 February 2016

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