Ready, Set, Slow

Added: 08/01/16 Author: Mark Tomlin

Hello and welcome to 2016! I hope you and your loved ones had a great festive period and are ready to face the New Year head on.

My first blog this year comes with good news, the UK housebuilding crisis is over!

You may remember I wrote in December about the need for the UK to tackle the issue of time on site, never has that been truer. Authorities across the UK have approved plans to give house builders the space to more than 600,000 homes – as long as we use the industry’s expertise to build these houses quickly we should ensure that every family has a home, first time buyers can get on the ladder and we limit the risk of a hyper-inflated housing market. Great news all round!

Well, not exactly. The sting in the tail of this story, as reported in The Guardian this week is that these authority approvals combined with a lack of building means that in 2015 the Government was awarded the rather dubious honour presiding over the largest number of unbuilt homes with planning permission.

Research from the Local Government Association found that, across all UK housebuilders, there are 475,647 homes ready to start that have yet to be built – 25% up from this point five years ago.

So what does the study tell us? It certainly looks like the hold ups with property development aren’t in red tape and planning, as the LGA no doubt hoped it would. So where is the hold up?

The cynic in me, and many others, says that property developers are land hoarding for maximum value before building – which makes commercial sense. I would ask, if building were easier and faster, could developers not be encouraged to turn sites around more quickly and more on to the next in the way that, say, a roofer or plasterer might?

I’ve blogged about it previously, but if the construction industry can give developers the confidence that they can see income from their sites faster while having tighter control of their costs then maybe the whole housebuilding process can speed up. Perhaps if the industry’s specialists can put the case for faster building forward, and prove that it works, then those holding the purse strings have to listen.

If nothing else, the LGA will be glad to be proved that planning isn’t the issue, and the first time buyers of the UK will be grateful to have homes!