Smaller and medium sized builders will be able to contribute more to the construction of new homes in the UK after the Chancellor Philip Hammond announced more money for building and training.
Indeed the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) hailed it has a Budget for builders. Chief executive Brian Berry said that the new target of building 300,000 new homes a year by the mid-2020s and the announcement of £44 billion of capital funding, loans and guarantees will boost the sector.
In particular, he pointed out that a further £1.5 billion for the Home Building Fund to be targeted specifically at SME house builders can play a significant role in channelling crucial funding to this sector.
He also said that the £630 million fund to prepare small sites for development and proposals to require councils to deliver more new housing supply from faster to build smaller sites will provide opportunities to boost small scale development.
He also believes that the second major challenge to getting new homes built is the skills crisis and the announcement on new money for training will be welcomed. ‘With Brexit round the corner the next few years will bring unprecedented challenges to the construction sector,’ said Berry.
‘The Government will need to make sure that the sector continues to have access to skilled European Union workers, but we are pleased that the Chancellor has today listened to the needs of SME builders,’ he added.
The sector is also encouraged by the commitment from Hammond to increase the supply of land for new homes. Catherine McCullough, development director of SME London property developer Merchant Land, said it is much needed.
‘This long term approach, which is supported by significant funding from the Government, marks a significant step towards meeting the ambitious plans for tackling the chronic housing shortage in the UK,’ she said.
However, Liz Jenkins, partner at Clyde & Co, said there will still be concerns about accessibility to workers from Europe post Brexit. ‘I’s going to take a lot more than retraining some adults to replace the potential outflow of migrant labour post-Brexit, particularly there is also a question of where these adults are going to come from as unemployment is currently low,’ she said.
‘The construction industry therefore needs to work hard to promote a career switch into the sector and break down some of the stereotypes around the sector that could put people off. Retraining adults as construction workers would provide some labour but once they retire we’ll be back to square one, unless we’ve trained a significant cohort of today’s young people to fill the gap,’ she pointed out.
‘Meeting the Chancellor’s ambitious targets will require an available and skilled construction workforce. In the long term we need to be attracting the next generation of talent into the sector but we have an immediate priority to create the skills we need to deliver new homes today,’ she added.
‘It is good to see the announcement of £34 million to develop construction skills across the UK but as ever, this needs a true partnership between public and private sector to make sure we make the most of this funding and creating the workforce that will deliver our target of 300,000 new homes a year,’ she concluded.