Smaller housebuilders in the UK appear to be hindered from building new houses by problems related to mortgage accessibility, according to research performed by the Federation of Master Builders (FMB). After conducting a poll on 122 SMEs within the house building sector, the FMB found that 38% were finding mortgage accessibility issues a barrier to their planned projects.
Worse still, almost 50% said they expect the problem to worsen over the coming years.
62% of those polled said that lack of ‘available and viable’ land is the single biggest obstacle in the way of residential housing projects. 60% said the current planning system remains a major issue, while close to 50% said that the delivery of new projects is being hampered by a lack of skilled workers.
The government is being lobbied to alter its immigration policy to allow skilled workers into the UK to support the housebuilding sector, having once again failed to come anywhere near meeting its own long-promised annual housebuilding targets.
“This year’s FMB House Builders’ Survey highlights the persistent barriers holding back small, local house builders,” said Brian Berry, chief executive at the FMB.
“Delays in the planning system and a lack of available and viable land are stopping the industry from building the homes that are needed.”
“The lack of mortgage availability reveals the damage that the current economic turbulence has created.”
“A lack of skilled labour is another major barrier holding back the potential of SME house builders. This will come as a little surprise to many.”
“The government must look to develop homegrown talent, but targeted immigration has to be an option on the table to support the industry.”
“The government can achieve its ambitions for growth and levelling up by supporting the nation’s SME house builders.”
“Who better to invest in than local house builders, who act as the engines of growth in their communities, employing local workers, training local school teachers, and delivering quality homes?”
Rishi Sunak faces rebellion over housing policy
Meanwhile, Rishi Sunak is staring down the barrel of a major Tory MP rebellion, with more than 50 MPs calling for an amendment that would end housebuilding targets for local councils.
Led by the former cabinet minister Theresa Villiers, the amendment so far has the backing of 46 MPs, who want to see housebuilding targets made advisory rather than mandatory. The proposal has been met with disappointment and disdain from the opposition, with campaigners stating that it will cause further harm to the UK’s already struggling housing sector.
Damian Green, Esther McVey, Priti Patel, Chris Grayling, and Iain Duncan Smith are among the prominent names that have given their backing to the proposed amendment.
But rather than supporting the housing sector, critics are adamant that the amendment would further reduce the availability of affordable housing inventory across the UK.
“The actual effect would be to enshrine nimbyism as the governing principle of British society, to snap the levers that force councils to build, and to leave every proposed development at the mercy of the propertied and privileged,” commented Robert Colville, director of the CPS thinktank.
Meanwhile, former levelling-up secretary Simon Clarke expressed his own surprise and disdain for the amendment.
“There is no question that this amendment would be very wrong. I understand totally how inappropriate development has poisoned the debate on new homes in constituencies like Chipping Barnet [Villiers’ constituency], but I do not believe the abandonment of all housing targets is the right response,” he said.
“We also need to recognise the fundamental inter-generational unfairness we will be worsening and perpetuating if we wreck what are already too low levels of housebuilding in this country. Economically and socially, it would be disastrous. Politically, it would be insane.”
The shadow housing secretary, who characterised the entire situation as a move in the wrong direction, expressed similar sentiments.
“This is a complete shambles. The government cannot govern, the levelling-up agenda is collapsing, and the housing market is broken. Pulling flagship legislation because you’re running scared of your own backbenchers is no way to govern,” she said.
“There is a case for reviewing how housing targets are calculated and how they can be challenged when disputed, but it is completely irresponsible to propose scrapping them without a viable alternative in the middle of a housing crisis.”
“Labour will step up to keep this legislation moving. There is too much at stake for communities that have already been victims of Tory chaos and of a prime minister too weak to stand up to his own party.”