White paper solutions to get Britain building again
The shocking statistics that reveal 4.75 million homes are needed across the UK (4.3 million in England), only 0.2% of land in England is vacant to build on, and since July this year, 58 local authorities have suspended their development plans, illustrate why such a framework is so vital to getting Britain building again.
Launched today, the white paper provides the industry’s most comprehensive analysis of the key barriers to housebuilding, including planning, land supply, funding, development incentives, supply chain, environmental demands and affordability. The report shares feedback from those at the heart of the industry, identifying where change is truly needed and how it will impact other dependencies.
The first-of-its-kind report also reviews progress with Modern Methods of Construction (MMC) and technology, looks at where we are now with the Levelling Up & Regeneration Bill and National Planning Policy Framework review, and shares robust actions to help repair an undeniably broken system.
Brickflow’s 10-step framework for moving forward:
- Increase planning department funding now – allocate more funding to planning departments, and rather than consulting further on whether to increase planning application fees, do it now. It may cost developers more in the short-term, but they, and the whole economy will benefit from a faster process in the long-term.
- Provide greater household projection clarity – with previous housebuilding targets now scrapped and local authorities unclear on how to calculate this data, introduce a methodology that enables them to identify housing requirements and adhere to the soon-to-be-introduced local plan timetable.
- Introduce a database for all public sector land – including local authority and national government-owned. Identify what can be used for brownfield housing and
- audit green belt land, reclassifying low-quality so-called ‘grey belt’ areas, as suitable for housing.
- Focus use of the Infrastructure Levy on supporting local communities & infrastructure – there’s talk that additional funds could be used to plug other authority financial gaps, which contradicts the whole ethos of developer contributions. Contributions must benefit the local communities where house building occurs.
- Improve government & private-sector funding for developers – many government-backed schemes are short-lived, lack scale and longevity and can be challenging to apply for. Similarly, the private sector must improve access to development finance through investment in further digitisation of the specialist property finance market.
- Implement a robust energy and water infrastructure strategy – developers face unrealistic demands to produce 80% fewer carbon emissions and not to connect to the gas grid from 2025 (clarity is still required as to whether this will be delayed until 2035). These cannot be achieved unless the energy and water infrastructure is improved, and with more wind farms to reinforce the electricity grid. Put more pressure on the key contributors to nutrient-related river pollution, such as landowners, the agricultural industry and water companies, rather than developers (who contribute just 5%).
- Increase buyer affordability by bringing back Help to Buy – or a similar scheme that improves affordability metrics. Changing the National Planning Policy Framework to improve buildout rates will only work if buyers can afford the homes being built.
- Build market confidence in MMC – use MMC to build council and housing association properties where a mortgage isn’t necessary. It will only become more mainstream in the UK if the longevity and efficiency of this type of construction increases.
- Invest in technology to facilitate more building, buying and selling – give housebuilders the training and tools they need to retrofit homes and meet the Future Homes Standard. In addition to digitising planning and land supply, digitise the buying and selling of homes to remove the archaic paper-based conveyancing process which stalls property sales.
- Adopt a culture of collaboration and action – government ministers or representatives from all parties must meet with housing sector stakeholders to address the issues identified in this white paper and move forward with practical rather than theoretical solutions. Also, crucially, stop this revolving door of housing ministers.
- White paper executive editor and Brickflow founder and CEO, Ian Humphreys, comments: “The housing crisis in this country is a huge white elephant; we all know it exists and everyone appears keen to address it, yet no one has a clear strategy on how to do so. This is not surprising given the mountain of government rhetoric, professing to identify the key issues and suggest solutions, yet often without consideration for the impact these may have on other parts of the housebuilding chain.
“The housing market is in a catastrophic state and we need to act now, which is why we’ve endeavoured to present a clear, comprehensive document that covers the key issues across all parts of the property sector, sharing insights from leaders who through their own experience, have helped us develop a practical rather than theoretical framework.”
Ian concludes: “To our knowledge, it’s the first time the contributing factors to the housing shortage have been collated into a single document and scrutinised to understand what truly lies at the heart of the housing crisis. Early feedback indicates we’re the first to ‘join the dots’ in the way we have, bringing advanced thinking from a wide range of disciplines, sources and economic perspectives.
“Our paper gives politicians direct insight into the issues impacting developers, builders and buyers; relieving them of the need to wade through hundreds of pages of government papers from authors who may have the best of intentions, but are not on the front line. We also hope it will facilitate greater cohesion between the government and the private sector, as only then can we really work together to resolve the housing shortage, before it becomes irreversible.”
Contributors are PwC, Knight Frank, Nimbus, Searchland, Hodge Bank, the National Association of Commercial Finance Brokers (NACFB), the Financial Intermediary and Broker Association (FIBA), Invest & Fund, Mint Property Finance, Brightstar Financial, Bayes Business School and Marden Homes.
‘Solving the UK’s Housing Shortage’ has been presented to government housing ministers, across all parties, with a request to discuss its contents further. Download the full report here.