There is absolutely no doubt that the current conditions in which we find ourselves will fundamentally affect the economic standing of the UK, government strategy on our recovery, and its priorities going forward. As the country begins to operate in a new sort of normal and the fallout from furlough and government intervention to support individuals and businesses becomes more apparent, a drastically changed business environment will require agility and flexibility on the part of employers and employees.
It is also clear, and quite rightly so, that a significant adjustment in government fiscal policy will be directed towards investment in the NHS and the future resilience of the nation to the sort of situation we currently find ourselves in.
The Care sector is clearly going to feature heavily going forward with more operators and models of care coming to the fore and further institutional investment in the sector pushing the quality of care and service with a commensurate price attached. Government support for less financially advantaged elderly people will also be required to ensure the gap in care for different socio-economic groups does not grow. Could we see a C2 specific requirement for Affordable Housing on certain appropriate developments? I have provided one of these facilities in West London in the past and not only did it provide much needed and suitable accommodation, it also freed up under-occupied existing housing within the borough for larger families to move into.
As a nation we are going to be spending a lot more money on vital national, medical, and institutional infrastructure and people, than was anticipated only a few months ago. This will inevitably lead to a changing of priorities in how the government spends on other matters and how much debt it is willing to incur in order to achieve its strategic aims.
There will be an inevitable reduction in delivery of new homes due to social distancing measures on construction sites. New planning permissions have also been delayed (in most cases) due to other priorities and pressures on LPA staff and resources.
Unemployment data released on Tuesday shows a rate of 3.9% between February and April. This is better than many had expected but also likely to be skewed due to government intervention and the true picture is likely to become more apparent in the coming months.
So how can Housebuilding help this situation?
Housebuilding, done right, has a positive socio-economic effect unlike most other industries.
- We have a shortage of homes, whether they are Affordable (with a capital A) or private sale.
- Providing people with a place to live gives them a stake in their community and the security and peace to be productive and contribute.
- Housebuilding provides employment at a rate of circa 3 jobs for every home built.
- Of the many billions of pounds spent by housebuilders with suppliers, around 90% stays in the UK, supporting jobs and the UK economy.
- New Homes, in the right place, with the right infrastructure, built and designed well, create a virtuous circle in providing cohesive, responsible communities that can increase happiness and bring positive financial outcomes.
HBF figures show the clear benefit provided by housebuilders:
With limited availability of Brownfield sites attention must turn to the delivery of housing in areas outside of existing settlements. I do not advocate a concreting over of the UK’s “green and pleasant land” but I do advocate the following:
- Qualitative assessment of sites in the green belt to ensure that the individual nature of a site is taken into account when considering appropriateness for redevelopment. It seems completely illogical that Countryside designated sites that provide real or visual amenity are afforded less protection from redevelopment than an “eyesore” in the green belt.
- Review of town center policies to take account of the decline in high street retail and allow new communities to be created where people live, shop, socialise and thrive.
- Continue to push the Building Better, Building Beautiful drive to encourage quality and volume in tandem, not one at the expense of the other.
- Encourage SME housebuilders to deliver more homes, SME’s can contribute many homes yearly that are of the highest quality. The sites they typically build on are smaller and less complex and can be delivered more predictably and quickly than the hundred-plus home sites typically favoured by large housebuilders.
- Streamline the planning system to actively discourage political self interest in the decision-making process. Retaining the status quo is not an option; we must change in order to progress.
- Encouraging expansion of shared ownership schemes to allow more flexibility and opportunity for potential homeowners to have a stake in their community.
It is clear therefore that housebuilding and our industry can be a beacon of economic hope once we have come through this crisis. This will require financial investment, time and the political will to bring about effective change.
Chartfield Homes is open for business and always looking for new sites to develop beautifully conceived and constructed homes that are far from ordinary. https://chartfieldhomes.com/
Chartfield Consulting is open for business and we are seeking new clients to assist in maximising the value of their landholdings. https://chartfieldconsulting.co.uk/