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Housebuilding To Speed Up To Meet Govt Targets
The speed at which new houses are constructed in the UK needs to be accelerated in order for the government to meet its targets.
This is according to a new review of the sector by former minister Sir Oliver Letwin, who was commissioned by the government to find out more about housebuilding rates in Britain.
According to the head of land banking, the study was conducted to determine what the cause of slow delivery is and what can be done to hasten completions. Indeed, while there were 684,000 homes with planning permission in July 2016, just over half of these have been built to date.
The Independent Review was derived after visiting 15 large housebuilding sites in the UK where between 1,000 and 15,000 homes were being constructed with the help of scaffolding companies in York.
Last week’s study found the lack of variety of new builds is holding back the industry. This is because developers do not want to release all the houses for sale at the same time, as this would bring down the market price of properties in the area.
However, according to the report, developers could avoid this ‘absorption rate’ by introducing more variety in the designs, tenure and sizes of the homes.
“It is clear that the main cause for delay is the absorption rate. We found that if house builders were to offer more variety of homes and in more distinct settings then overall build-out rates could be substantially accelerated,” Sir Oliver Letwin stated.
As well as a lack of style diversity with the properties, the report found the number of residential planning applications was high, which means developers are facing long delays from councils to receive permission to build.
Furthermore, Sir Oliver discovered there is a shortage of skilled bricklayers in the UK, which is contributing significantly to the slowdown in housebuilding.
He said 15,000 more bricklayers are required, which is nearly an extra 25 per cent of the entire population of bricklayers currently working in the UK. To help achieve this figure, more training needs to be offered over the next five years, the report concluded.
The historic reason for such a low level of bricklayers is due to their below-average hourly pay and minimal prospect of wage growth in the foreseeable future. However, the review revealed this is only the case for employed bricklayers, and the majority – 90 per cent – are actually self-employed and, therefore, bring home a much higher salary.
This is likely to be due to a lack of bricklayers in the industry, therefore, labourers are able to drive up their prices. Despite this, it is thought that 75 per cent of bricklayers are already working on building new homes. So if the government hopes to achieve its ambitious plans of increasing the number of new build properties a year from 220,000 to 300,000, bricklayers would need to be pulled from other areas of the construction industry.
This would result in a shortage of skilled workers on jobs other than housebuilding. Sir Oliver stated that without moving away from brick-built properties or hiring overseas workers, the government needs to instruct a “five-year ‘flash’ programme of pure on-the-job training” for the “rapid expansion in the number of bricklayers”.
Just last week, the government pledged to spend £22 million on on-site training opportunities to help meet housebuilding targets. This money will be spent on 20 training hubs, work experience placements, and pathways for career-switchers and those who want to join the industry.