Housebuilding sector reacts to Labour landslide win

The housebuilding industry has responded positively to the news of a landslide Labour Government, but cautioning that action is needed quickly to resolve a series of challenges in the sector.

Labour will be expected to puts its colossal 170-seat majority to use, on the back of Keir Starmer’s pledges to construct 1.5 million new homes over the next five years, upgrade over 5 million existing homes, and bring in a “blitz of planning reform.” This includes a first draft of a new National Planning Policy Framework expected within weeks to start to address some of the planning issues holding up delivery, and more funding for planning authorities.

The Labour Party manifesto also contained plans to free up ‘grey belt’ sites in urban areas, issue “planning passports for fast tracking urban brownfield development, and to devolve more powers on housing to Metro Mayors, in the form of “new development corporations.” There would also be a “new generation of new towns” constructed, and giving “first dibs to first time buyers.”

Brian Berry, chief executive of the FMB, commented: “The election of the new Labour Government offers a fresh start to get Britain building. Labour’s pledge to build 1.5 million new houses over the next five years, and upgrade five million existing homes, are ambitious targets. Their success depends on reform of the planning system to make it easier and quicker to build, and tackling the skills crisis.”

Brian Berry continued: “Additional funding for planning departments offers hope that the planning process will speed up. A long-term training and skills plan to tackle the shortage of construction workers is desperately needed, as is the need for some form of minimum competency level for builders.”

Berry concluded: “The FMB will work closely with the new Government to help ensure its housing pledges are delivered.”

Craig Carson, MD of Barratt West London, welcomed the possibility of a Labour Government working together with the London Mayor on delivery of housing: “For the first time in nearly a decade, there will be a Labour government working together with the Mayor of London on a brownfield-first approach when it comes to development. The prioritisation of brownfield and the new greybelt land will help unlock large swathes of land for development.”

Former Labour chief of communications Alistair Campbell told the BBC: “I think the planning thing is going to very difficult for the new Government, we have become a NIMBY culture.”

Mike Sambrook of SME housebuilder SJ Roberts Homes commented: “With a clear mandate from across the UK, Labour must now act quickly to demonstrate the positive changes that they’ll make, and in housing, this
must come via Ministerial stability so that demonstrable change is delivered by a consistent team.

“I’d like to see a strong, workable replacement for Help to Buy so that first time buyers are supported onto the property ladder. The proposed Freedom to Buy scheme currently appears little more than a permanent
mortgage guarantee scheme, which experience has demonstrated to be unpopular amongst lenders and unlikely, therefore, to have the impact that Labour anticipates.

“Finally, I’d like to see greater policing of the market so that a fairer, more level playing field for all developers, regardless of their size, is realised. This will enable them to deliver the homes that are needed in the communities where they’ll have most impact.”

The Structural Timber Association (STA) called on the incoming Government to “honour its election pledges, by prioritising sustainable housing solutions as a means of achieving net zero.”

Andrew Carpenter, CEO of the STA, commented: “The general election has been a significant milestone for the housebuilding sector, now, it’s crucial that Prime Minister Keir Starmer makes good on his election promises by implementing a clear strategy to deal with the housing shortage.”

“However, simply building more houses is not enough – this is a unique opportunity to revolutionise the way we build our homes. Adopting more sustainable construction methods such as structural timber offers a speedy and clean approach to meeting current and future housing demands. We urge the new Government to renew the commitment to increasing the use of timber that was established with the Timber in Construction Policy Roadmap, published by DEFRA in December last year. It’s imperative that the progress we have already made is not lost in the change of Government.”

Claire Petricca-Riding, head of planning & environment at Irwin Mitchell commented: We expect there to be immediate changes to the planning system which will allow for some flexibility at an early stage in the first year. The re-introduction of mandatory housing targets will enable confidence in the market.”

She added:”Long term there could be a reintroduction of regional spatial planning  – whether this be at a broad regional level as before, or the introduction of combined authorities where plans will incorporate development on a county-wide level.”

Commercial real estate firm Colliers said that the new Labour majority meant that local authorities must receive funding assistance in order to progress developments. John Webber, head of business rates at Colliers, said: “Given the size of the landslide victory, there should be no excuse for the Labour party to avoid addressing the business rates problem or to introduce significant reform. We urge reform, as opposed to abolition, to ensure local authorities continue to receive the stable funding they need.”