UK needs ‘a revolution in house building, not peaceful protest’

Modular developer says new start stats show industry timidity is painfully obvious.


The UK needs a “revolution in housebuilding, not a peaceful protest” as latest MHCLG house-building stats show new build starts down 9% year on year with a seasonally adjusted estimate of 36,630.

Earlier this week, the Commons HCLG committee told MHCLG to “get a grip” on progressing the housing target, with the resulting report saying the Ministry had no clear plan to make 300,000-homes-a-year happen and urged the unlocking of potential in  modern methods of construction to boost building.

Joseph Daniels, founder of modular developer Project Etopia, said the UK now needed a revolution in housebuilding, not a peaceful protest.

“With new build starts also 25% down on the pre-crisis peak, the structural problems of the UK’s housing market and the industry’s timid reply are still painfully obvious, even after £10bn of public money has been thrown at it in the form of the Help To Buy scheme.

“For all the talk about the government setting ambitious housing targets, there is still a lack of urgency when it comes to walking the walk, and this has meant starts on new homes are down 9% on both the previous quarter and the same time last year,” said Daniels.

“The rate of progress means Government targets remain only a pipedream, and the people it hurts are the ones desperate to get onto the housing ladder, who are locked out by high prices because the supply is simply not there.

“Housing is in a state of crisis, yet the response has not reflected how high a priority house-building needs to be in the UK.

“Only by turning to modern methods of construction which are much faster than traditional building can we hope to deliver the housing the country desperately needs,” he said.

On a quarterly basis, new build dwelling starts in England were estimated at 36,630 (seasonally adjusted) in the latest quarter, a 9% decrease compared to the previous 3 months and a 9% decrease on a year earlier.

Completions were estimated at 42,870 (seasonally adjusted), a 1% decrease from the previous quarter and 14% higher than a year ago.

Annual new build dwelling starts totalled 162,270 in the year to March 2019, a 1% increase compared with the year to March 2018.

During the same period, completions totalled 169,770 an increase of 6 per cent compared with last year.

Private enterprise new build dwelling starts (seasonally adjusted) in the March quarter 2019 are down by 7% from the previous quarter, and completions are unchanged.

Starts by housing associations are 8% lower compared to the last quarter, and completions are down by 5%.

All starts between January and March 2019 are now 114% above the trough in the March quarter 2009 and 25% below the March quarter 2007 peak.

All completions between January and March 2019 are 71% above the trough in the March quarter 2013 and 11% below the March quarter 2007 peak.

The pipedream theme was picked up by Clive Docwra, Managing Director of leading construction consulting and design agency McBains.

“Government has set a target of building 300,000 homes a year by the mid 2020s, but today’s figures show that this will remain a pipe dream unless measures are implemented to help boost the number of new build starts and completions.

“These figures bear out that construction firms are suffering from uncertainties over Brexit – investors are wary of committing to new projects while the outcome remains unclear, while skills shortages, which are already acute, will bite further unless the industry is able to recruit skilled workers from oversea,” said Docwra.

“The high cost of materials is also impacting on the amount companies can build, and access to finance is often difficult to come by.

“Even though the annual figures show an increase in starts and completions of new homes, these are nowhere near enough to meet the demand for housing. I

“Independent estimates suggest that more than 300,000 new homes need to be build each year until 2031, so today’s figures prove that the housing crisis is still miles away from being solved.”

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