HAs critical to innovation, MPs told

Housing associations are key to ending years of housing market failure, MPs have been told.

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Members of the Commons CLG committee were told by a panel of experts that a move away from the major private builders was vital to drive more housebuilding, innovation and improve quality on new builds.

Ahead of the Housing White Paper, the evidence session heard that a raft of new developments were needed to end the cyclical under-performance in the housing sector. Ideas include new financial models to attract overseas and institutional investors, creating new land agents to make sites available faster and supporting SME building firms.

Philip Callan, research associate at the ResPublica think tank, said increasing capacity meant housing associations were needed.

“Associations have an absolutely vital role. They now have three million properties. They house one in 10. They are crucial providers of accommodation. They are an extremely resourceful sector driven by good leadership and governed by regulation,” he said.

Mark Farmer, author of the government-commissioned Farmer Review of the UK Construction Model, also gave his support.

He said: “Housing associations have a massive role to play. It’s demand-capacity that needs to be reorganised. The housing association sector has a key role in terms of promoting innovation.”

Michael Ball, professor of urban and property economics at Henley Business School, backed a greater role for the sector but expressed concern over the scenario where demand from buyers reduced.

Farmer warned about the impact of Brexit on the number of skilled workers available for housebuilding.

He told MPs: “In terms of skills and capacity, we are not attracting the amount of young people into construction industry needed to maintain the workforce.

“This, in combination with an already shrinking workforce, and the potential of Brexit-related reductions in labour will further reduce the capacity of the construction industry. We might even be in a situation where a third of our workforce is lost over the next decade.”

Professor Ball also urged ministers not to eave residents out of decisions on housing provision: “It’s a consumer question too. How do people want to live and what are their aspirations?”

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