Organisations voice concern that housing is slipping down the UK political agenda

With the Brexit negotiations dominating the political landscape in the UK at present, concerns are rising that housing policy is slipping down the agenda, in particular new home building.

It comes as a new piece of research shows that the average new home in England will have to last 2,000 years if the sluggish rate of house building and replacement continues and adds that the country has not built enough new homes for decades.

As a result, the report from the Local Government Association (LGA), says that existing homes must house more people and last for much longer, which has led to the country spending nearly as much on the repair and maintenance of existing homes as it does building new ones.

Indeed, most local authority areas have more homes built before 1930 than from any other period of time and the analysis also shows that one in 10 new home buyers are dissatisfied with the quality of their new home and one in six would not recommend their house builder to a friend.

The LGA is calling on the Government to help councils build a new generation of high quality, genuinely affordable and additional homes, supported by adequate infrastructure and services. It adds that house builders also need to work with councils to ensure new homes are built to a good quality, and will stand the test of time.

With increasing numbers of people in the private rented sector, council leaders are also concerned that 28% of privately rented homes are not decent, an increase of 150,000 homes since 2006. In comparison, council homes are more likely to be better quality, with 85% meeting the decent homes standard, an increase from 70% in 2008.

‘The country’s failure to build enough homes over the past few decades is putting huge pressure on our existing housing stock. Families are having to spend more on rent or mortgages every month and deserve a decent home that is affordable. But as costs are rising, so is dissatisfaction with the standards of new homes.

‘Everyone deserves an affordable and decent place to live. It’s crucial that all new and existing homes are up to a decent standard. Councils need to be able to ensure quality through the planning system, and to encourage high standards in rented and owned properties across the board,’ said Judith Blake, LGA housing spokesperson.

‘To spark a desperately needed renaissance in council house building, councils also need to able to borrow to build new homes and keep all receipts from any homes they sell to reinvest in building new homes that are of a good quality and affordable,’ she added.

The only way we will increase the number of new homes we are building is if Ministers act now to implement measures in the Government’s Housing White Paper aimed at removing barriers to small house builders, according to the Federation of Master Builders (FMB).

‘The LGA is right to highlight the slow rate of house building in England as we are currently still building significantly fewer new homes than we need to be to meet demand. Not only are we not building enough homes right now, but we’ve been under building in this country for decades,’ said Brian Berry, chief executive of the FMB.

‘In order to address this problem, it is vital that the Government acts on key proposals in the March 2017 Housing White Paper which quite rightly emphasis the need to diversify the house building sector so it is less reliant on a small number of large house building companies to build our homes. The concern is that almost six months after the White Paper was published, we’ve seen limited movement on a range of policies that if implemented, could start making a difference today,’ he pointed out.

He believes that with the LGA report showing that 10% are unsatisfied with the quality of their new home that still means that 90% are happy and this satisfaction rate is likely to be higher still among customers of SME house builders.

He also pointed out that it is equally important that money is put into the refurbishment of existing homes as the housing stock in the UK is among the oldest in Europe, with a high proportion of heritage properties and listed buildings.

‘In other words, it’s not an either or situation. If we are to solve the housing crisis then we must increase the delivery of new housing but also maximise the lifetimes of our existing buildings. The Government could help encourage greater investment in our existing housing stock by reducing VAT from 20% to 5% to encourage more people to properly maintain their properties,’ he concluded.