As Britain awoke this morning to a resounding leave result in the EU referendum, Many housing professionals are concerned of the prolonged period of uncertainty that will naturally befall the affordable housing sector over coming years. Regardless the impact Brexit will have, Britain is still facing an acute housing shortage and house builders need to remain focussed and driven to help tackle it. HAmag.co.uk reports:
The Leave campaign tasted victory early this morning, harbouring 52% of the overall majority vote. This will now trigger a lengthy 2-year process of removing Britain from the EU, and envisioning what a non-European Britain will look like as a standalone entity.
Reassurance comes from industry experts
David Orr, Chief Executive at the National Housing Federation released a statement that was short and sweet, highlighting the importance of a strong stance as an industry. Speaking on behalf of the Federation, he said “We recognise the uncertainty that this result will bring to the sector and we are working with our housing association members to support them to continue delivering the homes and services this country needs. Whatever happens there is still a housing crisis and we remain committed to ending it.”
David Brown, the head of agency Marsh & Parsons, said in the Guardian earlier that this morning’s result in widespread moral panic across the housing sector. He pointed out (https://www.theguardian.com/money/2016/jun/24/house-price-fall-could-follow-brexit-say-experts) that regardless of the result of the referendum there was still plenty of pent-up demand in the UK housing market “and a leave vote doesn’t change that overnight”.
He added: “When you think back to before the financial crisis and the volume of transactions we were witnessing on an annual basis, there’s clearly scope for further improvement. The decision to leave doesn’t alter the fact that plenty of people have to and still want to move.”
Invest in home grown-talent
Brian Berry of the Federation of Master Builders stressed the importance of a close collaboration with the government to invest and retain home-grown talent, as well as skilled labour from overseas. He commented: “The UK construction industry has been heavily reliant on migrant workers from Europe for decades now – at present, 12% of the British construction workers are of non-UK origin. The majority of these workers are from EU countries such as Poland, Romania and Lithuania and they have helped the construction industry bounce back from the economic downturn when 400,000 skilled workers left our industry, most of which did not return. It is now the Government’s responsibility to ensure that the free-flowing tap of migrant workers from Europe is not turned off. If Ministers want to meet their house building and infrastructure objectives, they have to ensure that the new system of immigration is responsive to the needs of industry.”
Berry continued: “At the same time, we need to ensure that we invest in our own home-grown talent through apprenticeship training. We need to train more construction apprentices so we are not overly reliant on migrant workers from Europe or further afield. That’s why it’s so important that the Government gets the funding framework right for apprenticeships – when you consider that this whole policy area is currently in flux, and then you add Brexit into the mix, it’s no exaggeration to say that a few wrong moves by the Government could result in the skills crisis becoming a skills catastrophe. The next few years will bring unprecedented challenges to the construction and house building sector, and it’s only through close collaboration between the Government and industry that we’ll be able to overcome them.”
In response to this morning’s news, we are reminded of the iconic motivational poster produced by the British government in 1939 that read “Keep Calm and Carry On.” Understandably, we are likely to see lots of chaos, confusion and miscommunication following a Brexit result; however, the fact still remains that there are over 1.8 million households waiting to be accommodated in social housing in England alone, according to Shelter – an increase of 81% since 1997. 67% of people on this waiting list have been waiting over 12 months. Nearly 41,000 households with dependent children were living in temporary accommodation at the end of December 2012.
All of these issues currently blighting Britain fundamentally stem from the same problem: there have not been enough social homes built in recent history.
Yes, the market will experience uncertainty in terms of finance, but the demand is still very much there for social and affordable housing in the UK and housing associations and Local Councils have a big job on their hands to meet it.