In their election manifesto, the Conservative Party has pledged to 500,000 extra homes by 2022, as well as reaffirming their previous 2015 commitment to deliver a million homes by the end of 2020.
The party concedes that not enough homes have been built in the UK “for generations, and buying or renting a home has become increasingly unaffordable”. Housing associations will be given “greater flexibility” to increase the number of homes they can deliver, “building on their considerable track record in recent years”.
With such bold promises, housing associations and construction professions will undoubtedly be poised to hear more about how the Tories plan to make this happen. Here’s how the industry has responded:
Recognising the scale of the housing crisis
Bjorn Howard, Group CEO of housing developer and landlord Aster, said “The most pleasing aspect of the manifestos is that the major parties appear to recognise the scale of the housing crisis facing the UK and particularly the problem of affordability. They have put forward some bold ideas to tackle these issues.
“We accept that Brexit will remain a central theme of the campaign but the chronic lack of housing supply is the one thing affecting almost everyone in the country, particularly young people.
“Whoever wins on 8th June, it’s crucial that all housebuilders signal their willingness to partner with government on policies to increase the number of high-quality, affordable homes on the market. Alternative tenures like shared ownership have a key role to play in this.
“In our view partnership working must sit at the heart of the response to the crisis and this includes developers pooling resources and expertise to boost build rates.”
“It’s not just about building more homes…”
Commenting on the publication of the Conservative party’s General Election manifesto, Chartered Institute of Housing chief executive Terrie Alafat CBE said: “All three major parties have now rightly recognised that we need an ambitious long-term plan to get to grips with our national housing crisis. We know we need to build at least 250,000 homes a year in England to meet demand, so it’s very positive to see commitments to increase house-building in all of the major parties’ manifestos.
“But it’s not just about building more homes, it’s about building more affordable homes for people on lower incomes. We need more homes across the spectrum – for home ownership, for private and social rent, and for shared ownership – but we believe more investment is urgently needed in affordable homes to rent. Historically we have only built anywhere near the number of homes we need when the public sector has been directly involved in building, so it’s encouraging to see the Conservatives commit to help councils build more homes, including through capital funding. The pledge to help housing associations build more homes is also welcome.
“Matching these ambitious plans with successful delivery will require a long-term plan combined with significant investment, so we would be interested to see more detail on how these commitments would be funded.”
The role of SME’s
Theresa May must put SME house builders at the heart of her ambitious plans for housing, the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) has said in response to the release of the Conservative Party’s manifesto.
Sarah McMonagle, Director of External Affairs at the FMB, said “The importance of addressing the country’s chronic shortage of homes is as great as ever, and the Conservative Party’s manifesto seems to appreciate the scale of the challenge ahead of us. A revised house building target of 1.5 million homes from 2015 to 2022 ups the ante on housing delivery again, but these ambitions can only be delivered with an accompanying focus on creating a more diverse and innovative house building sector. The decline in the number and output of smaller local house builders over the past few decades has led to the industry’s capacity haemorrhaging. To deliver the PM’s vision we will need to reverse this. The Manifesto’s explicit pledge to diversify the delivery of new homes is therefore extremely welcome. Key to doing this will be being able to build on some of the sensible reforms outlined in the recent Housing White Paper, which we hope to see implemented.
“The Conservative Party’s manifesto sets out an ambition not only to build more, but to build better. There is a welcome emphasis on balancing the pressure for increasing the delivery of new properties with the need to deliver those homes to a high standard. As is widely recognised, smaller scale house builders have a strong focus on quality. By supporting greater diversity in terms of the companies building our new homes, a Conservative Government would be killing two birds with one stone. This is a vision that SMEs can build on.”
Whichever party your loyalties lie with, it is clear to see from all manifestos that housing is high on the agenda. An acute housing shortage, debate over where homes will be built and how many will be genuinely affordable all serve to exacerbate a very complex issue. We need more homes in Britain, and your vote on Thursday 8th June could very well influence how this is carried out.