'We won't build enough homes if we just carry on doing the same things.'
The government has committed to solving the housing crisis and in its housing white paper it sets out a number of measures to get us building more homes. But do the measures go far enough and how will the sector significantly increase the amount of homes it builds? We spoke to Melanie Leech, the chief executive of the British Property Federation, to find out more.
How serious do you think this government is about solving the housing crisis?
I think we’ve seen enough to believe that there is serious intent there.
We’ve seen a very significant change of language, in terms of recognising the housing crisis and committing to increasing housing supply. We’ve also seen a marked shift away from an almost sole focus on home ownership and an appreciation that we need more homes of all kinds.
So I think there’s every reason to believe that the government is serious about solving the housing crisis and I think there are some really important measures in the white paper that back up that commitment. It’s now about making it happen.
Do you think the measures in the housing white paper will get us building more homes?
Well we know we need to build at least 250,000 new homes a year to meet demand and it is going to be a real challenge to get to that level, particularly when we haven’t been building enough homes for many years. But I think there are some very important measures which will boost the supply of housing in the UK and more importantly help us to build the right kinds of homes.
In this sense the emphasis on stimulating build to rent and the other measures to support the building of new rented homes, including changes to planning, are extremely welcome.
What part do you think innovation can play in getting us building more homes?
We’re not currently building the homes we need, and we’re not going to build more by continuing to do the same things we have.
So while the measures to support new house building are welcome I think there is a challenge there to all organisations to look at how they can do things differently.
I think off-site construction is an example of an innovation which could make a big difference in terms of getting us building the numbers we need. It’s also much faster to deliver and less disruptive to communities. But in reality that is just one way organisations can think about the way they deliver homes and as a sector it’s crucial that we really embrace innovation.
What else do you think the government can do to solve the housing crisis?
Local authority resourcing is something which comes up again and again. The government’s commitment to tackle the housing crisis and the measures in the white paper are only going to mean more work for local authorities. So I think more support to allow local authorities to fulfil their vital role will be important – both in terms of resource and expertise.
We’ve also called for the government to look again at things like the stamp duty surcharge for institutional build to rent housing as we think that could be an obstacle to building.
But after years of not building the homes we need, I think the government’s recognition of the crisis and the important shift in approach is a very good start to getting us on the right track.
Melanie Leech will join CIH deputy chief executive Gavin Smart, Fiona MacGregor, executive director of regulation at the HCA and James Ratcliff, assistant director for housing at the Greater London Authority, to talk about the challenge of building new homes at our South East conference from 6-8 March in Brighton - the first major housing conference since the white paper on housing.