The material crisis is harming the Government’s housebuilding and construction ambitions and the sector needs to help.
Richard Beresford, chief executive of the National Federation of Builders (NFB) said, “The Government cannot magic up building materials, but they can ensure the impact isn’t as great. Through keeping an eye on importation challenges, such as paperwork and port access and continuing to work on HGV driver solutions, material issues can be improved.
However, the NFB and HBA is calling on the Government to put out a Ministerial Statement telling councils they should show greater flexibility on materials changes, such as bricks, as well as not serve completion notices when a project is clearly delayed.”
Long term challenges such as investment in British material producers are vital, as is ensuring the global market understands what British industry needs but the Government needs to also identify which imported materials we are overly reliant on, such as timber and support British industries working to solve that, such as those investing in cross laminated timber (CLT).
However, in the short term, year on year material prices are increasing by 20% and delays are not abating. The Government also needs to understand the different challenges faced because while house builders and construction SMEs are seeing shortages of bagged cement, bricks and tiles, those building flats are reliant on steel and concrete, which have seen steep price rises and supply constraints.
Builders cannot wait up to thirteen weeks for a council to say ‘yes’ to changing, for example, a brick type, as that brick may then be unavailable. They also cannot be served completion notices on projects, which triggers them to pay council tax on unfinished homes.
Delays also harm homebuyers, who may struggle to retain existing lending offers and end up paying some fees multiple times.
Rico Wojtulewicz, head of housing at the House Builders Association (HBA), the housebuilding division of the NFB said, “The Government is at a crossroads. Due to reduced productivity, Covid has made the broken planning system even more inefficient and material shortages will put the final nail in coffin for some SMEs. Every HBA board member I have spoken to supports our short-term recommendations on project material flexibility and delaying completion notices because they are not only worried for their own businesses but the sector as a whole.
Housebuilders worked throughout lockdown and did not shirk their responsibility to solve the housing crisis but we need more help from the Government, otherwise SMEs will pay the ultimate price.”