The lack of affordable, decent homes is affecting families across the whole country. Working at the grassroots with small developers, we believe the Government can do more to solve the housing crisis by lifting the barriers these SMEs face as they attempt to put more homes on UK streets.
Recent decades have seen the numbers of SME housebuilders plummet. In 1988, the number of small builders (defined as those building 100 units or fewer) stood at 12,200 in the UK. This fell to 5,700 by 2006 and then 2,400 by 2014.
As homeownership fell in the last decade for the first time since Census records began, so too has our force of SME housebuilders: entrepreneurs capable of reversing this trend. It’s no coincidence that Britain’s most productive housebuilding period also saw the highest numbers of SME developers in operation.
That’s why in our submission to the Communities & Local Government Committee’s Inquiry into capacity in the homebuilding industry, we highlight the challenges that are directly holding back small developers from delivering the homes that we need:
“Measures should be taken to address the shortages in land, opportunities for finance and the lack of skills in the sector to truly get Britain building.”
We set out the following recommendations to reboot the growth of small-scale builders in the UK, and so begin to address the housing shortage:
Lift barriers to land acquisition
The Government should:
- Take action to ensure that land is not unnecessarily banked and that larger developers who do not develop land in their stock sell it on to SMEs who will develop the land swiftly.
- Place increased scrutiny on the land market, including requiring the publication of data on land pricing, option agreements and ownership.
- Prioritise SMEs over major housebuilders in bids to develop land released from public ownership.
Lift barriers to finance
The Government should
- Explore state-backed funding schemes to provide businesses like LendInvest with more capital to lend to SMEs.
- Put SME property development at the heart of the industrial strategy. Commit to and act upon the funding understood by industry to have been earmarked by government for SME development projects.
- Build on the Government’s support for alternative finance as a route for SME growth by promoting cross-fertilisation between small scale developers and alternative finance companies.
Broaden access to skills
- The Government should support industry initiatives to develop skills for property developers.
- The Industrial Strategy should go further in incentivising development activity to position property development as an attractive entrepreneurial opportunity.
- Government at all levels must work with SME developers to make it easy to plan and develop property.