Housebuilders call on Government to recognise progress and not provide ammunition for NIMBYs

Housebuilders have called on ministers to recognise the achievements of the industry in delivering the Government’s housing commitments and meeting every challenge Ministers have laid down. The industry is well on target to deliver the million homes Government challenged it to but is highlighting the risk of negative rhetoric about new housing supply “providing cover for NIMBYs and energising anti-housebuilder campaigners” and damaging attempts to address the skills shortage.

With housing supply now above the levels recorded in the post war years and up 74% in four years; satisfaction scores released today showing build quality is improving; private sector builders providing 50% of all affordable housing as part of community contributions of over £6Bn a year; tens of thousands of new employees being recruited and trained; and a record number of planning permissions being applied for as the industry gears up to deliver Government’s pledges to young people and 300k homes a year, the industry believes Government should be recognising the progress being made by private sector housebuilders and working with them to positively position an industry that needs public support, and more recruits, to deliver Government targets.

Speaking at the annual HBF Policy Conference, 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.

“As 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 your 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.”

Policies such as Help to Buy demonstrate Government’s commitment to building more homes. The scheme has been central to the increases and a hugely successful policy that should be celebrated. It has delivered on all its set objectives to drive supply up, help first time buyers and increase economic activity. The industry is calling for confirmation of its future pose 2021.

Government has also overseen big improvements in the planning system since the introduction of the National Planning Policy Framework, and whilst the revisions currently being consulted on need to reduce the costly and time consuming blockages that see hundreds of thousands of so called permissions stuck for too long, it is delivering more land.

Recent successes include:

  • They showed there were 217,000 net additions in the year to April 2017, the third highest number since the early 1970s and up 74% in the past four years alone. As a result the Government’s initial target of one million additional homes in the period between 2015 and 2020 – ridiculed by many back in 2015 as a pipe dream – now looks very attainable depending, as ever, on the wider economic outlook.
  • The latest industry customer satisfaction survey scores released today show increases across all question areas including a 2% increase in the key ‘Would you recommend your builder to a friend?’ question to 86% – a survey satisfaction level that compares to any industry or sector. After four years of successive 1% falls as volumes increased, the reversal is a reflection of the commitment of the industry to improve customer service and quality. Over 100k forms were sent 50k returned.
  • A Government report released last week showed that last year the industry contributed over £6Bn 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 the public purse.
  • Last year saw around 350k planning permissions granted to housebuilders, a demonstration of industry commitment to deliver further increases in supply. Whilst many of the permissions will take builders many months to process to the point where they are allowed to start building them (and be incorrectly classed in ‘landbanking’ stats by some critics whilst being processed), assessment of previous year’s numbers shows the clear link between permissions and completions, albeit with a lag.
  • The industry is investing massively in skills and training, as was demanded by Government, to ensure it has the capacity to deliver housing targets and build high quality homes. The Home Building Skills Partnership, launched by the industry two years ago following frustration with Government quango the Construction Industry Training Board is a demonstration of industry commitment to become bigger and better.