Meeting the demand for quality new houses in the UK

new housingThe Local Government Association (LGA) recently published a report on the quality of house building, prompting a response from the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) on how the number of new homes being built can be increased to meet demand. The FMB believes that the only way to do this is to implement measures in the Government’s Housing White Paper which proposes to get rid of the obstacles placed in the way of small house builders.

The LGA report discusses how the quality of new and existing homes has shifted over time as well as how quality differs in different areas. It accepts that good quality homes that have been designed well, and are safe and sustainable, are important but realises that there are increasing concerns related to housing conditions.

Problems discussed include the strain experienced as more people are needing to be housed while there is a failure for supply to meet demand, and that inequality in the distribution of housing is on the increase. There is a marked difference between homeowners often having more room than they need while those who are renting encounter housing that is becoming increasingly overcrowded and more and more costly.

Tackling the shortfall of housing

The Chief Executive of the FMB, Brian Berry, responded saying that, “The LGA is right to highlight the slow rate of house building in England as we are currently still building significantly fewer new homes than we need to be to meet demand. Not only are we not building enough homes right now, but we’ve been under-building in this country for decades.”

He believes that the only way to deal with these issues is for the Government to act on key proposals in the Housing White Paper of March 2017, which highlights the need to diversify the house building sector to rely less on the few big house building companies for building new homes. He is however concerned that very little has happened in relation to the policies that could make the required difference if carried out now.

He goes on to say that “The LGA report also raises concerns regarding the quality of new homes and points to one in ten home buyers being dissatisfied with the end result. To put this another way, that means 90% of consumers are satisfied with the quality of their new home, which is a high customer satisfaction rate. Furthermore, this satisfaction rate is likely to be higher still among customers of SME house builders like the ones represented by the FMB. Our members market themselves on building high quality bespoke homes for their clients and this is their unique selling point.”

Berry concludes by saying that although the report suggests that there should be more investment in new homes than in refurbishing existing ones, because the United Kingdom has some of the oldest housing stock in Europe the FMB believes that it is just as important to look after and maintain these properties, which include a large proportion of listed buildings and heritage properties. He says that it isn’t a choice between the two but rather that solving the housing crisis will involve both supply more new housing as well as extending the lifetime of the UK’s current buildings. He suggests that if the government reduced VAT from 20% to 5% this could result in more of the population maintaining their properties properly, boosting investment in the country’s existing house stock.

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