FMB: Council house building needed to solve housing crisis

The Prime Minister is right to announce sweeping measures to enable councils to build a new generation of social housing and end the growing housing crisis, according to the Federation of Master Builders.

Brian Berry, Chief Executive of the FMB, said: “Despite the Prime Minister’s precarious political position since the General Election, Theresa May has managed to take a braver and bolder stance on house building than any Prime Minister of recent years.

The private sector will continue to expand the number of new homes it builds, particularly so if the Government succeeds in its aim of removing barriers that hold back small scale house builders. However, in the house building heyday of the 1950/60s, a healthy private sector was always complemented by significant levels of social house building. Indeed, we have only ever built at the level we need to keep pace with demand when both the private and public house building sectors have been firing on all fronts. In the 1960s, for example, we were building around 400,000 homes per year and half of those were social housing.”

Berry continued: “The Prime Minister’s plan is also an opportunity to help shape a stronger local house building industry. If councils can start to engage with smaller, local builders to deliver this new generation of council housing, it could further help to diversify the industry. This would also boost the capacity of the private sector through the provision of more public sector work. Indeed, the increased use of small and medium-sized building firms will limit the problem of land banking, as this is something small builders simply don’t do.”

Berry concluded: “There do remain however, some significant roadblocks to the Prime Minister’s vision. Following Brexit, the serious shortage of skilled labour the construction industry is already dealing with will be exacerbated if it becomes much more difficult for EU tradespeople, who have come to play a crucial part in plugging the industry’s chronic skills gap, to move to and work in the UK.

Although the industry must seek to overcome this crisis by recruiting and training many more young people than we currently do, the Government must also be mindful and realistic about the continuing need there will be for skilled EU workers as it puts in place its post-Brexit immigration policy. Otherwise it will risk jeopardising the delivery of the bold new house building ambitions the Prime Minister outlined.”

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