Tories challenged to back SME housebuilders

“The government’s role is to remove barriers, not add to them.”

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The co-founder of a high-flying property finance platform says housebuilding needs ‘level playing fields’ to get SMEs into the game.

Christian Faes, co-founder & CEO of LendInvest, led a cross-party roundtable conversation at the Tory party conference with a number of housing and business policy experts from around the UK.

These included Chris Philp MP (a member of the chancellor’s Treasury team); Mary Robinson MP (a member of the CLG Select Committee); Richard Bacon MP & Peter Aldous MP, (two backbench Conservative MPs with interests in housing); Richard Blakeway (the former deputy mayor of London for housing, and Homes & Communities Agency board member); Tom Bloxham MBE and Marc Vlessing (CEOs of property development companies Urban Splash and Pocket Living respectively); and David Ellison (a Manchester-based Labour councillor).

The invitation-only event was co-hosted with Prospect, the monthly political journal.

Roundtable discussion built on Starting Small To Build More Homes: a blueprint for better policymaking for property SMEs,  a report published by LendInvest in March this year examining the challenges facing property SMEs such as constrained access to finance and distorted policy around regulation, taxation and access to land.

Participants discussed in detail the disparity in opportunity between property SMEs and those in other sectors, and reflected on ways in which the government should revise its treatment of small and medium-sized property companies, as well as recognise the positive contribution they can make to resolving the UK’s deep-rooted housing crisis.

Faes said: “There are five times fewer small scale developers today than in the last housebuilding boom and not a single one of today’s top 10 housebuilders was created before 1990.

“There is a clear monopoly in the sector. What was clear from our discussion is that more must be done to level the playing field for property entrepreneurs so that they can do business with confidence.

“This means sweeping away barriers to finance and land for SMEs, as well as celebrating industry initiatives to improve skills in the sector.

“The cost of doing business must also be reduced.”

Richard Bacon MP said: “Politicians talk often about building more homes as if it were politicians who build them. Let’s stop focusing on targets and let the builders get on with it. The government’s role is to remove barriers, not add to them.”

Andy Davis, associate editor at Prospect Magazine, added: “At a time where the government maintains ambitious housing delivery targets, we are seeing a generational loss of smaller housebuilders.

“If we are to see SMEs succeed and scale, we must challenge the regulatory system that is geared towards mass volume housebuilders and ensure that property entrepreneurs can access the finance they need for their schemes to take off.”

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