BSRIA is concerned with the first set of significant house building figures since the Conservative Party Conference that have just been published by the National House Building Council (NHBC) which provides building certificates for new homes. Overall, registrations for new homes fell by 2 per cent in the last three months compared with the same period last year. In the private sector, new building registrations fell by 1 per cent.
While in the public sector – largely homes built by housing associations for affordable housing – the number was down a more rapid 4 per cent. This has been caused partly by uncertainty over how new Right to Buy plans will affect housing associations.
But the NHBC says “it is not time to panic”. After a robust first six months of the year, it is still predicting that overall new house building – when the full figures for 2015 are collated – will be up. And it cautions that new build registrations can be "lumpy" – quarter on quarter comparisons can be subject to a degree of volatility.
The fact that the Prime Minister said he wanted a “national crusade to get homes built” in his keynote speech at the recent Conservative Party Conference should sharpen political focus on addressing what is quickly becoming the key policy challenge of our time. In 2014-15, there were only 124,520 housing completions, around 100,000 short of what is needed to meet current demand.
Julia Evans, Chief Executive, BSRIA, said: "It's easy to forget the depths of the recession five or six years ago when the industry was only building 80,000 to 100,000 homes a year. We're now at about twice that rate so the industry has come a long way. But there is still a long way to go if the UK is ever going to meet the target set by organisations such as Shelter that the UK should be building 250,000 new homes a year to meet the demand of those priced out of the present under-supplied market. Are these figures masking a more worrying trend?
Clearly, it is the issue of skills shortages hampering the collective productive capacity within the industry. What is needed is a strategic approach from industry and government that looks to apprenticeships and other employment solutions, as politically potent as that may be, or the housing crisis will never be solved.”
The latest figures from the Department for Communities and Local Government released in August said that house building "starts" – actually building houses rather than registering a plan – were down 14 per cent compared to the previous three months and down 6 per cent compared to the same period a year earlier. And that comes against a background of generally poor construction figures as the sector becomes concerned about “economic head winds”.
The NHBC’s projections are for 160,000 registrations in the UK this year. As it has 80 per cent of the market, that translates to 200,000 overall which is the sort of number being mentioned by government. And according to the NHBC, despite the marginal drop in housing registration statistics this quarter, 2015 is still promising to be a strong year for new housing growth in the UK.
Government needs to support its housing ambitions with a focussed plan for labour for the industry – an industry that demands investment. This is two-fold, since a career in the construction industry is a meaningful and rewarding choice in a life-long and fulfilling profession.