One million recruits needed to beat housing crisis

According to a white paper produced by EC Harris, construction companies will need to recruit one million new recruits by 2020 if the industry is to build the homes the country needs.

The paper, ‘People and money – fundamental to unlocking the housing crisis’, examines the limits to housebuilding capacity, with consultancy firm EC Harris exploring the ‘inadequacy’ of current financing and the business models that both the private and public sector use to fund more housing. The report also finds that many more people must be recruited, with the need for a change in accepted construction practices so that the industry can deliver more homes ‘with limited labour resources’.

According to EC Harris, the industry employs 1.5 full time workers per home each year, with 120,000 more needed to achieve production of 230,000 units per annum. However, due to growth elsewhere in the industry and high levels of retirement, the number of new workers the construction sector will need by 2020 is one million.

The paper suggests that in determining a solution to the UK housing crisis, access to labour and money were more important than planning and land availability.

However, with the industry attracting only around 20,000 trainees each year and unemployment at lower levels than in 2007/8, EC Harris warns that homebuilders would either have to find new routes to skills sourcing or reduce their labour requirements by re-designing the product.

The white paper reveals that the key trades in demand are still bricklayers, plasterers, scaffolders and roofers, with architects and quantity surveyors also being squeezed in the professional field. The paper also stresses that pressure on availability in these areas ‘will grow significantly’, possibly resulting in ‘market failure – where too many firms chase too few resources’.

Head of development at EC Harris, Mark Farmer, explained:

“Across the UK, approximately 300,000 units need to be constructed each year in order to meet demand – 50,000 of these are potentially needed in London alone. However, in 2014 we delivered less than half of this.

“This is now about the need for fresh, radical thinking from both industry and government, which respects the existing housebuilding model but also seeks out viable routes to large-scale, additional delivery.”