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Land supply and finance top housebuilders’ concerns

12 September 2017

Availability of small sites and a lack of finance top the list of barriers to SME housebuilders increasing their delivery of new homes, according to research by the Federation of Master Builders’ (FMB).

The FMB’s 2017 House Builders’ Survey found that money and land were bigger concerns than Brexit and the threat of migrant labour disappearing.

Accessing finance was described as a major barrier to the ability to build more homes by 54% of respondents, up from 50% in 2016.

The lack of available and viable land was cited as a barrier to increasing output by 62% of respondents.

While skills shortages are also a concern, with 42% of SME housebuilders citing it as a major barrier to their ability to build more new homes, only one in 10 small housebuilders expect the end of free movement for EU workers to have a major impact. 

While 35% of respondents said that they employ overseas EU workers, either directly or as subcontractors, only a third of these believe that immigration rule changes would be detrimental to their business. Two-thirds of those expecting to be impacted do not consider it a substantial threat.

However, FMB chief executive Brian Berry insisted that new immigration rules were still a cause for concern for the industry. “If we get it wrong, Brexit and the end of free movement could further exacerbate the skills shortages we already have.

“The survey finds one third of SME housebuilders currently employ EU workers and this rises to 70% in London and the South East.

“The potential impact of post-Brexit immigration changes is therefore a cause for concern among small housebuilders.

“That’s why it’s so important that the government introduces a transitionary period that allows the UK housebuilding sector to gradually wean itself off high levels of EU labour.”

Comments

As with so much else, Brexit is a problem for the South East corner of the UK but not such a big deal for everyone else.

The comments by Brian Berry appear to reflect a regional perspective rather than a national one.

Ultimately, the industry must take responsibility for (and pay for!) skills training. We need to wean ourselves off the lazy assumption held by some that training is someone else's responsibility.

George Dutton, 12 September 2017

The term suitable land always seems to be a substitute for cheap easy to build on land; the UK housing industry needs to address the issue of always pushing for use of green field sites as the quick and easy options. The UK still contains large areas of brownfield sites which are avoided due to ground remediation costs and increased foundation works. These are both areas the UK industry has learned to address this in central London and central city problem areas. This may reduce profit margins, but increased use of apprentice schemes and home grown skilled work force will over time help reduce our dependence on overseas skilled workers and create innovative building solutions.

Peter Egan, 13 September 2017

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