Relying on private developers to end housing crisis ‘fatally flawed’

New analysis from Savills – supported by top housing bosses – backs a move away from over-reliance on private sales.

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Relying on private developers to end the housing crisis is “fatally flawed” a new report reveals – with the analysis backed by top housing bosses.

The report, from Savills and published by the National Housing Federation, the G15 and Homes for the North, says the UK will only meet its 300,000 homes a year target if it increases funding for affordable housing and moves away from an over-reliance on private sales.

As the private market slows down, the report says the tapering of the Help to Buy scheme and a potential Brexit downturn will deepen the housing shortfall – with directly funding housing associations will be critical to closing this gap and delivering more affordable homes.

The report calls for more joint ventures between the private sector, councils and housing associations, and increased use of long-term funding models such as the strategic partnerships rolled out by Homes England and the Greater London Authority.

Housebuilding is identified as having to increase by up to a third between 2021 and 2025 to make up for the end of the current Help to Buy scheme and hit 300,000 homes a year, while government funding for affordable housing has the potential to  add to, and not displace, existing investment from the private sector.

Emily Williams, Associate Director for Residential Research, Savills, said: “Private sector housebuilding for market sale has underpinned the rapid expansion in housing supply since 2013, including affordable housing delivery through Section 106. But that growth is slowing against market headwinds.

“The tapering and potential withdrawal of Help to Buy represents a significant downside risk to speed and scale of development for the majority of developers, including housing associations.

“Increased grant funding would widen the range of tenures being built, accelerating the speed of market absorption and therefore the build out of sites.”

While new home completions look set to reach 260,000 homes per year by 2021, the report shows that longer-term delivery remains decidedly uncertain.

In a challenging market, that means housebuilding in England may need to increase by up to a third between 2021 and 2025 to make up for the end of the current Help to Buy scheme and hit 300,000 homes a year.

The report findings come as growth of the big nine private housebuilders – who are currently responsible for some 40% of new completions – continues to slow.

NHF chief executive Kate Henderson said the report showed relying on private developers to end the housing crisis is “fatally flawed” and that without Government investment in affordable housing it won’t  be possible to build enough homes.

If we are serious about ending the housing crisis, the Government must do the right thing and invest in affordable housing at the upcoming spending review – doing nothing is simply not an option.” 

Paul Hackett, chair of the G15 and chief executive of Optivo said: Increasing grant funding for affordable housing will reduce the market risk that housing associations are currently exposed to and help build during downturns.

“Our sector is reliant on a cross-subsidy model where the money we make from private housebuilding is reinvested into affordable homes.

“But this model is at full stretch and massively exposed to the market.

Savills’ report shows that a new funding deal for affordable housing is now imperative if the Government wants to hit its housing targets over the next decade.”

Carol Matthews, chair of Homes for the North and chief executive of Riverside said the report demonstrates that, whilst housing market trends play out differently across our regions, the need for long term funding certainty to develop much-needed new homes needs to be recognised throughout the country.

“This has been an important piece of work for Homes for the North to collaborate with key partners on to show that the North, together with all regions, has a pivotal role to play in building the 300,000 homes needed each year.

“As the report finds, volume housebuilders’ rate of delivery is predicted to slow further in the coming years. Housing associations stand ready to fill this gap by working with the Government to grow our development pipelines and make our contribution to tackling the housing crisis,” she said.

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