NEWS

Why Aren’t We Building More Homes?

With residential housing in short supply – and set to become more scarce – why aren’t we building more homes?

With an ever-expanding British population and a shortage of residential accommodation on our island nation, the Labour Government famously set a target in 2007 for the construction industry to build 240,000 new houses every year. We haven’t achieved that once in the eight years since. In fact, the industry failed to reach even half that target last year, with just over 118,000 new builds.

Faced with an overall target of one million new homes by 2021, the National Housing Federation looks even further ahead to 2031, predicting a shortfall of more than 220,000 homes. So why aren’t we building more homes?

 

 Supply And Demand

With property at a premium, prices are high and thanks to a double-dip recession whose effects are still being felt today, many potential home-owners struggle to afford to get on the property ladder. The cold, hard truth is that conventional properties are just too expensive for the market sector that most needs it. There’s no denying the demand is there, but can the construction industry supply at a meaningful price point?

It’s evident that the problem isn’t going to be addressed by the current rate of development. The present housing shortage requires a rate of growth that is unprecedented since the 1946-1954 post-war housing crisis. The answer then was pre-fab; and maybe that’s the answer today, too.

Of course, in 2017 we’d call it modular building, but the principle’s the same – use pre-constructed templated parts to rapidly construct everyday homes. This is Ikea on steroids…

 

Placing A Premium On Skills

One example is the Modulhus concept, which won a design competition last year, realising a 66sq m two-bedroom house costing just £49,644 to build.

This ‘flat-pack’ strategy may reduce the industry’s reliance on skilled labour to some extent, but it only shifts and magnifies the recruitment emphasis upstream onto effective procurement and project management.

With the ongoing shortage of affordable housing, we’re seeing that local authorities, social housing companies and registered social landlords are all setting up their own construction arms. We expect this to be a growth sector for construction recruitment thanks to an increased demand for skilled labour to help these organisations realise their ambition of creating more housing at affordable prices. And as they are inexperienced in this kind of development project, these organisations will place a premium on experienced labourers and professionals alike.

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Building Up, Not Out

But is the problem as simple as getting more homes up quicker? Britain has a finite amount of space and there is pushback from the general public and local councils alike to developing on established greenbelts. Any new build location has a requirement for supporting infrastructure, which is costly to develop and takes time – which famously costs money.

But instead of building ‘out’, maybe the answer is to build ‘up’. One alternative is to develop established sites with much of the supporting infrastructure already in place. According to a recent article by the Telegraph, retail giant Tesco is considering constructing ‘mini-villages’ on its sites. Flats would be constructed off-site, then lifted into place above existing stores and car parks, with an estimated value of £54bn in London alone, according to consultants at HTA Design.

This exploration of so-called ‘air rights’ is a new one that looks set to test planning and consumer expectations equally, but could this be the most effective way of answering Britain’s housing shortage?

 

Going Brown, Not Green

Another answer could be to utilise sites that have been traditionally excluded from residential planning. The British government isn’t oblivious to the housing crisis, which is why it announced this month that it would help to create new homes for first-time buyers between 23 and 40 years old at a discount of at least 20{5bd4dbeb095e6afd0553a3eb2804eeb537458bfdee92d71a335bb02b85762530} below market value. Housing Minister Gavin Barwell announced that 2017 will see the first Starter Homes being built on brownfield sites to create thousands of new homes backed with financial support as part of the government’s £1.2 billion Starter Homes Land Fund.

And this activity isn’t restricted to the capital, as the Homes and Communities Agency revealed that it has received 79 expressions of interest from 120 local authorities across the country.

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 Connecting Talent With Opportunity

There’s no denying that as Britain enters a post-Brexit existence, there aren’t enough homes to go around. Residential development is set for explosive expansion and whether this comes from the private sector or local government – or a combination of the two – there aren’t enough skilled professionals to meet this demand.

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Whether you’re looking to attract the best talent, or you want to find the best fit for your skill set, Kingston Barnes is here to help. Talk to us today on 0117 325 2233 or email us at office@kingstonbarnes.com

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