Housing for the many begins with builders

Jeremy Corbyn has announced a green paper, entitled ‘Housing for the Many’, setting out the Labour Party’s strategy to fix the housing crisis.

Centred on social housing, this green paper aims to deliver one million genuinely affordable homes over ten years, the majority of which will be earmarked for social rent.

The HBA supports Labour’s ambition to increase the number of homes that councils can build, as well as strongly reiterating the need to remove the Housing Revenue Account borrowing cap.

Social housing is a vital tool for councils to deliver more affordable housing and a lifeline for many people across local communities.

However, the language used by ‘Housing for the Many’ does little to recognise the current barriers to the development process or understand how the existing system is struggling to enable affordable housing suppliers.

In 1970, when Britain built over 350,000 homes a year, strong partnerships between the private and public sector actually got homes built. Local builders, typically SMEs, delivered many of these homes and worked alongside councils on both the planning process and local plan making.

Since 1970, an estimated 66% of SMEs have gone out of business, taking away councils’ capacity to stimulate affordable housing. Although local authorities are now the gate keepers to stimulating that recovery, far too many remain wedded to volume development and over-regulation of the planning process.

With housing associations, community land trusts and self-builders also hindered by these barriers, it is important that politicians do more to understand how and why homes get built.

Richard Beresford, chief executive of the National Federation of Builders (NFB) said:

“Construction SMEs train and retain two-thirds of apprentices and employ within fifteen miles of their head offices. In 1970, SMEs were seen as imperative partners but, in 2018, their expertise is not being utilised to full potential to increase housing delivery.

“With planning devolved to local authorities, the NFB encourages decision makers to better understand the development and plan-making process. This is the only way to truly build housing for the many.”