Government needs to do more to help increase England’s housebuilding numbers to address the growing housing crisis, said speakers at a London debate last month.
There have already been a series of government interventions to boost housebuilding activity, notably the Help to Buy initiative to support first time buyers and Get Britain Building, which helps stalled housebuilding sites. But delivery continues to lag, with housebuilding numbers for the third quarter of the year decreasing by 10%. This year’s new homes total is expected to be just over 120,000 units, but well over twice that number is needed to keep pace with demand, say forecasts. Only in the London region, where market has been at fever pitch, has there been an increase in output, said Richard Donnell, research and insight director with residential property data specialist Hometrack, who was among the speakers at the debate hosted by aircrete blockmaker H+H at London’s Homes 2014 show last month.
“Housebuilders won’t build more, they behave entirely predictably. It is government’s responsibility to ensure that the country has enough houses,” said speaker Keith Exford, chief executive of affordable housing provider Affinity Sutton.
Exford said government needs to focus on providing:
- Greater funding freedoms for local authorities
- Greater programme certainty for housing associations – and other freedoms
- Sensible land and planning policy for housebuilders
- Diversity of homes at a price the public can afford.
Affinity Sutton is increasing its own development programme by 2000 homes, which will grow its build programme to 12,250 new homes in the next decade. But the housing association sector faces significant challenges, Exford added, “We want to make rents affordable, but things are out of our control. We are now in an era of heightened risk – a range of factors including benefit reduction, low grant levels and diversification all pose risk.”
At the debate Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) policy and research manager Kathleen Kelly added to the calls for annual housebuilding levels to be increased, saying that a third of the 250,000 homes needed should be affordable.
But Kelly pointed out, “Housing associations are increasingly being put into a difficult position, where they are not sure if rents are affordable.” JRF, the National Housing Federation and property consultant Savills are working on a joint research project to define a ‘living rent’.