Is housing going downhill fast?


Brian Berry, CEO of the FMB looks at the prognosis for SMEs in a sector in crisis, and how its new guide could help

All the data, including our own at the FMB, seems to be suggesting the housing market is dipping, which suggests the Government’s ambition to build 300,000 homes each year is way off target. Whether this can be turned around is largely in the hands of the Government. I’m confident that the FMB is doing everything it can to promote the importance of housebuilding, especially the need for a renaissance of SME builders, to help build healthy, quality homes, fit for their communities.   


Despite the gloomy picture in the housing sector, I’m pleased to report that a new guide aimed at helping new housebuilders get into the housing market was officially launched in July.  Developed through the Construction Leadership Council’s SME Housing Sub-Group, led by the FMB’s vice president Chris Carr, the guide is a one-stop-shop for prospective developers. It contains the collective wisdom of housebuilders with decades of experience, many of whom noting that they wished they had such a guide when starting out. 

The guide’s application though goes far beyond new entrants into thehouse building market. It sets out the hurdles, pitfalls, and hoops that house builders have to navigate to get a house from conception to reality. I hope that many councillors, planning officers and government officials will take a flick through to understand the market they’re dealing with. So far, feedback has been extremely positive, with many from the public sector and construction industry alike, noting its importance to help more people into the housing industry.  

Hopefully, the guide will make a difference to our sector and encourage more house builders to enter the market. We know that the number of small, local housebuilders is on the decline, but if we are to step up housebuilding numbers we will need more and not fewer local housebuilders. We can’t let more and more of the market share for new homes fall to major developers, it’s not good for consumers, and only helps fan the flames of NIMBYism. 


Small, local housebuilders are struggling in a market that has seen the fastest decline in residential construction since May 2020, but that was a time when we were all gripped by the Covid pandemic. We need to be building more homes, yet we are moving in the opposite direction. There is a whole generation of people who can’t get on the housing ladder, which is holding back growth and investment. While it might be politically easy to shelve housing commitments to gain votes in the Conservative heartlands, the Government must show they are committed to delivering 300,000 new homes.

To deliver this many homes the Government needs a clear plan to solve the housing crisis, otherwise we’ll continue to see overcrowding and increasingly unaffordable rents as more cling on to rental properties. While there are long term issues to solve with the planning system, the Government needs to take the bull by the horns and get Britain back to building homes.


Housing policy will play a key role in the upcoming party conferences. The Labour Party has set out some bold ambitions but is lacking the details about how and when the new homes will be built. The question still remains whether the Conservative Party can match this ambition. Will the Conservative Party see housebuilding as a vote winner, or a potential sticky issue for voters in their traditional strongholds? Time will tell!