A letter to our next government: The battle of housing in 2024

Housing is at the centre of the election battleground. This is unsurprising given the economic uncertainty and that history shows that housing tends to lead the wider economy both into and out of downturns.

We have recently seen small rises in house prices and mortgage approval rates to prove there are some green shoots but without some major changes it doesn’t look like we can build our way out of this recession.

We believe that a radical, yet credible plan is needed from each party to convince markets they can tackle the issue with a long-term plan not several short-term fixes designed to win votes.

You have suggested a target of 300,000 homes per year – however this has been the target for the current government since 2004 and it has not been met once.

Get SME housebuilders building again

SME housebuilders can play a major part in meeting our housebuilding needs. Smaller developments and smaller companies are often better received in the local area, which helps with objections. But, we would urge the government to provide incentives so they can access opportunities.

One example could be making local authorities allocate a percentage of their land in small plots to create a supply-side push. In addition, developers could be awarded fully permissive planning permission for brownfield sites of less than 2.5 hectares.

Government-backed equity schemes would also give these smaller firms the balance sheets needed for projects. It would also be advisable to improve the public perception of the major housebuilders who are often very ill-received.

Boost skilled labour in construction

Finding good contractors has become very difficult, many now work in small teams which makes development projects much harder to manage.

We need the next government to focus its efforts on creating more homegrown jobs as we can’t rely on overseas workers. To raise productivity, more work needs to be done off-site in factories which would attract more women and young people into the sector and reduce construction costs and build times.

Fix the planning system

The planning system is on the brink of collapse, plagued by a conflict of interest that ousts pro-development councils during local elections.

This flawed process forces councillors to vote against their own plans, leading to costly delays. Time is of the essence – let's ensure a fair and efficient planning system.

Prioritise social housing

To deliver the level of social housing required, we need to take the pressure off the private sector by empowering councils.

Compulsory purchase orders need further reform, for example introducing some automatic conditions. Local targets should also be set to encourage powers they have been afforded.

Alleviate restrictions on conversions and brownfield sites

It's time to incentivise developers to build on brownfield land. Support the automatic granting of planning permission for sites with plans meeting minimum ESG requirements.

Let's prioritise the use of existing buildings over new constructions, and advocate for the lifting of restrictions on conversion projects. Actively push for sustainable development and contribute to a greener future.

Lenders have an important part to play

Developments require capital and smaller developers will need to seek finance from challenger bank or non-bank lenders able to offer flexible terms and evaluate risk in changing market conditions.

At ASK, we will be looking to support well-capitalised developers with creative strategies to bring the much-needed new homes and commercial accommodation to market in line with occupier demand.

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