Westminster

Government must “address barriers to building much needed new homes”, a new report by the Lords Built Environment Committee.

One of the key recommendations from the report is that “over time the money spent on housing benefit should be invested in increasing the social housing stock”.

It adds that Right to Buy is “not good value for money”.

Key points highlighted in the report include:

  • The role of SMEs in the housebuilding industry has collapsed. SMEs should be supported by reducing planning risk, making more small sites available, and increasing access to finance.
  • The population is ageing and by 2050 one in four people in the UK will be over 65. The country needs more specialist and mainstream housing suitable for the elderly.
  • Uncertainty and delays to planning reforms have had a ‘chilling effect’ on housebuilding and created uncertainty for housebuilders and planners. We need more up-to-date local plans, and these need to be simpler, clearer, and more transparent. Planning departments need more resource to avert an emerging crisis.
  • The Government’s own figures show that skills shortages accounted for 36% of all construction vacancies and 48% of all manufacturing and skilled trades vacancies. Skills shortages must be addressed, through broadening the base of talent, upskilling and reskilling, including for the green skills needed to address climate change. The Apprenticeship Levy needs urgent reform. We call for the New Homes Ombudsman’s powers to be robust and adequately enforced to ensure homes are built to high standards of quality and design.

Baroness Neville-Rolfe DBE CMG, Chair of the House of Lords Built Environment Committee said: “The Government’s ambitious target of 300,000 new homes per year will only be met if Government takes action to remove the barriers for housebuilders, particularly for SMEs who 35 years ago built 39% of new homes but now build just 10%.

“The planning system needs urgent reform. Currently, less than half of local authorities have an up-to-date local plan: more councils need simple, clear and transparent local plans. Any new planning system will only work if local planning authorities have the resources and staff to implement it.

“Skills shortages in the construction, design and planning sectors must be addressed to unlock the required development, including the green skills needed to address climate change.

“Uncertainty and the absence of a clear policy direction has only exacerbated housing problems. Our report provides a package of proposals to help deliver much needed housing and address the critical undersupply of new homes.”

Cllr David Renard, Local Government Association housing spokesperson, said: “We fully support the Committee’s call for more investment in increasing social housing stock, if we are to tackle the housing crisis.

“By giving councils the powers and resources to build 100,000 much-needed social homes a year, we can help the Government meet its annual target of 300,000 new homes. This should include further reform of Right to Buy.

“While planning is not the barrier to housebuilding, with nine in 10 planning applications approved by councils, the Committee is right to highlight the need for planning authorities to be adequately resourced.

“Developers also need to be incentivised to build housing more quickly, with over 1 million homes given planning permission in the past decade not yet built, while an additional 1 million homes allocated in local plans are waiting to be brought forward by developers for planning permission.”