Greg Hill, Deputy Chief Executive at top 20 UK housebuilder Hill, comments:
“Over the last 20 years we have seen no less than 17 Housing Ministers with each spending an average of just 16 months in the position. If we are to truly stimulate housebuilding then it is vital that the Government takes a longer term approach to the sector’s leadership – it is simply not possible to have a coherent policy when a merry-go-round of ministers must routinely pick up the pieces of their predecessor and start afresh. Our new Housing Minister, Kit Malthouse, will have much to grapple with, and with little background in the property sector, understanding the issues must be his priority. Our slow and complex planning system has much to answer for and if we are to truly stimulate housebuilding then it is vital that the Government reviews how permissions are granted and takes action to minimise pre-commencement conditions which significantly delay the construction of new homes.
“While increasing the supply of new homes is key, ensuring the right mix of homes at a variety of price points is equally important. Locations such as London have long suffered from affordability issues and broad brush strokes to control house prices, primarily through stamp duty land tax, is having a punitive effect on the market.
“With Brexit less than a year away, it’s clear less of a focus is being placed on other policies such as housing, yet we still lack clarity on immigration and the status of European workers living in the UK. To deliver large schemes quickly you need a strong and diverse workforce, but uncertainty around their right to remain means that we cannot guarantee the labour and resource required to build them. Lessons from the past show us that plugging the gap is no easy fix and it takes years to replace a deficit of skilled workers, so we must act quickly to attract and retain our talent, and ensure that this decline in housing starts doesn’t prevail.”