Lords demand wholesale reforms to unlock housebuilding

13th January 2022


The government must take urgent action to tackle the country’s housing crisis with too many people living in expensive, unsuitable and poor-quality homes, according to an influential House of Lords committee.

The government has set an ambitions target of building 300,000 new homes a year but this will only be met if it takes swift action to remove barriers to development, according to the Lords Built Environment Committee.

The role of small and medium-sized construction companies in housebuilding, which built 39% of new homes 35 years ago, has “collapsed” with these businesses now accounting for just 10%, the committee’s report says.

Much-delayed planning reforms have also had a “chilling effect” on housing development and created uncertainty for housebuilders and planners. Less than half of councils have an up-to-date local plan, the committee warns. Any new system will only work if local planning authorities have the resources and staff to implement it, the committee says.

The Lords also point to the demand for more specialist and mainstream housing for older people with one in four people in UK aged 65 or over by 2050.

The report calls on the government to change its approach to spending on housing. Over time, the money spent on housing benefit should be invested in increasing the social housing stock. Government Right to Buy schemes are not good value for money, the Lords argue, and increasing the housing supply would be a more effective use of funding.

The committee also highlights severe skills shortages, citing government figures which show the issue is accounting for 36% of all construction vacancies and 48% of those in manufacturing and skilled trades. Skills shortages must be tackled by broadening the base of talent, up-skilling and re-skilling, including for the green skills needed to address climate change.

"The need for simple, affordable and sustainable housing policy is obvious,” said IEMA head of policy Ben Goodwin.

“Quite simply, as demand grows, action needs to be taken to ensure that there is enough housing to satisfy this, so that everyone has good access to somewhere to live.

“But in delivering greater supply it is integral that the planning system, including forthcoming reforms, include effective provision for assessing the environmental impact of housing development in order that the value of nature is properly considered.”

Image credit | iStock

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