2017 is set to be the first year since 2008 that the UK builds 200,000 new homes as part of the government target of one million new homes by 2020, but a severe skills crisis could undermine progress, Redrow chief executive John Tutte has warned.
In a far-ranging look ahead for 2017 Tutte said:
“The government has acknowledged Britain’s mounting need for new homes with various measures implemented to kick-start the sector in 2017. The announcement of a £2.3bn Housing Infrastructure Fund, together with the unlocking of a number of brownfield sites, are particularly helpful measures from government.
“The supply of land for housing is improving, with many local authorities now taking a more proactive approach in their area by identifying the number of homes needed to meet current and future demand and implementing plans to progress delivery.
“Despite this, family housing continues to be in short supply in some areas and red tape and a lack of planning resource in local authority departments remains the number one barrier to bringing more homes to market.
“The upcoming Housing White Paper must include measures to target this area which could include implementing an incentive-based system to encourage planning departments. While it remains doubtful that the combined house building industry will build one million new homes by 2020, with all the impetus currently being achieved, 2017 looks set to be the first year since 2008 in which we might build 200,000 new homes.
“It is positive to see the government announce the locations of 14 proposed new garden villages which will deliver new homes, facilities and amenities. It is important for government support to not only be given to building new homes, but to creating thriving and sustainable communities.”
“Demand for new homes continues to outweigh supply. Record low interest rates, a competitive mortgage market and government incentives such as Help to Buy have boosted demand. The high cost of deposits combined with stamp duty and other moving costs has resulted in people moving further out as they look to get more for their money.
“Schemes located in prime commuter belt locations which are under an hour journey from the UK’s major cities are popular and this is a trend that looks set to increase in 2017 and beyond.
“Our buyers want homes that offer all the benefits of a suburban lifestyle – being located near to local schools and green spaces – but with easy access to urban infrastructure and business centres.
“Analysis of our buyers also reveals their habits towards buying new homes. While our buyers favour new homes for the craftsmanship, low-maintenance lifestyle and 10-year NHBC guarantee they bring, they are also keen to live in a bespoke home that offers individuality, and in 2017 customisation will continue to be popular.
“2017 will be the year in which Article 50 is triggered, setting in motion the UK’s withdrawal from the EU. Of key concern to the house building sector are the implications for the workforce which is already suffering from a crippling shortage of skills.
“A drive for more homes must come hand-in-hand with a drive to recruit more workers, so the government must implement measures not only to retain the international talent already attracted to the UK, but to further support the sector to train and upskill the existing UK labour force.
“The industry itself has a major role to play and it’s essential that house builders work together to highlight the benefits of a career in construction and the sheer variety of pathways that exist. From bricklayers, to quantity surveyors, to architects and decorators – in 2017 inspiring and supporting people into these careers will need to be one of the industry’s biggest focus areas.
“At present, 15% of Redrow employees are trainees on structured programmes – a fact that we as a company are immensely proud of and encourage other firms in the sector to match.”