Nick Woolley attended the Housebuilder Housing Market Intelligence Conference on 8th October. At the Conference Housebuilders were challenged by the government and the Labour party to improve their performance and meet the challenge of new homes supply.

Peter Schofield, DCLG’s Director General of Housing, posed a series of questions to delegates, reminding housebuilders that solving the housing shortage “isn’t a job for Government alone.” He asked the industry if it was doing enough to turn planning permissions into new starts. While acknowledging the “complicated relationship” between the two, he said: “Now is the time for you to make the case for increasing volumes.”

He also called on housebuilders to join the government in building 200,000 starter homes, building on Prime Minister David Cameron’s speech to the Conservative party conference the day before. He was at pains to stress:

  • The twin objectives of Government are accelerating housing supply and home ownership.
  • We are barely building 2/3rds of the houses required annually.
  • The Government is now determined to strengthen the Duty to Cooperate on Local Planning Authorities with all other relevant LPAs and statutory bodies.

Labour’s shadow housing minister John Healey also challenged the industry, questioning whether Help to Buy was still needed and justifiable. “No-one’s mentioned the scale of taxpayer underwriting – £2.5 billion,” he said.

The Homebuilder’s Federation Director of Economic Affairs, John Stewart, stressed some useful underlying facts and figures:

  • Housebuilding makes a £19.2bn contribution to the UK economy.
  • £3.9bn contribution to local infrastructure through CIL and Section 106 payments by developers.
  • £355m Stamp Duty receipts from new build sales.
  • Housing is at the very top of Government’s Agenda and so the whole industry, including Local Planning Authorities are all under the Government’s microscope to make it happen!
  • The industry is in a much better position to deliver new homes than it was two years ago.

Taylor Wimpey CEO, Pete Redfern, gave delegates his view on the market and the path ahead. He urged government not to focus on the housing numbers at the peak of the market, but at the low point. That way the focus will be on achieving more stability in the market and avoiding significant downturns.

Redfern explained the areas that TW was focusing on in the future, including retention, recruitment and development of employees and Project 2020, which seeks to look at what the home of 2020 could look like and what innovation is required to get there.

Nick Woolley asked the Housebuilder Federation to be inputting realism into the Government’s rethink into Section 106 demands, which are currently making too many sites unviable, particularly in areas of low market value. This drew much warm appreciation from the audience.