Optimism abounds in UK housebuilding despite supply issues


The supply of new homes is paramount for the UK to level out the shortage of properties available, but the housebuilding industry could face some obstacles in the year ahead. 

The government’s ongoing targets to provide the country with an additional 300,000 homes each year are still a key concern in the industry. While housebuilding has certainly made significant progress even through the barriers caused by Covid, there is still a way to go, according to many in the industry.

Overall, the construction sector remains positive in its outlook. According to the WhatHouse? Predictions report, almost three quarters (71%) of housebuilders say they are cautiously optimistic about the year ahead.

The latest government statistics show that there were 243,770 net additional dwellings between April 2019 and March 2020; a 1% increase on the net additional dwellings created between April 2018 and March 2019. However, this fell to 201,850 between April 2020 and March 2021, as the effects of lockdown restrictions took hold.

Challenges for housebuilding

Supply chain and labour shortages are the key concerns for the housebuilding industry for the year ahead. This is according to comments compiled from many across the industry.

The two major causes of this are the pandemic and Brexit, both of which continue to impact the sector, despite its impressive recovery. The survey from WhatHouse showed that 73% of builders predict material shortages, particularly in bricks and timber, will be key concerns.

A scarcity of bricklayers and plasterers was another major issue flagged up in the survey. 67% in the housebuilding sector think that these obstacles will hamper the supply of new housing stock, as well as planning constraints and logistical issues as a result of Brexit.

Daniel Hill, managing director at WhatHouse?, said: “Throughout 2021, UK housebuilders raised concerns around supply chain shortages. The problem was reported by volume and SME housebuilders alike, with almost three-quarters of both groups reporting supply shortages of key building materials.

“Looking ahead, more than a quarter said supply chain delays would have the greatest impact on the housebuilding sector in 2022.”

‘High-quality homes in a timely manner’

Keeping up with housebuilding targets is a priority, alongside maintaining high standards.

Kelly Sharman, sales and marketing director at Hayfield Homes, said: “Given the supply chain and labour shortages that are creating delays to construction programmes, our biggest challenge in 2022 will be ensuring consistent high-quality delivery of new homes within a timely manner.

“These ongoing issues – which have been significantly affected by the pandemic and Brexit – are having an impact on output and ultimately the number of new homes being delivered to customers.”

Housebuilding isn’t the only answer

A recent report by Places for People, in conjunction with the University of Cambridge Centre for Housing and Planning Research, has found that, while building more homes is crucial, the full picture is more complex.

The report acknowledges that a lack of housing stock does play a part in the changing market and inflated prices. Population growth and changing social patterns also influence this, though. Therefore, the issue comes from both the supply side and the demand side.

“On the supply side, we identify the principal drivers of the affordability crisis to be an ageing population; changing household patterns; the growth of cities; and the availability of cheap money.

“On the demand side we identify the principal drivers of the affordability crisis to be low volumes of “second hand” sales, a lack of choice in the market, and a long term failure to build sufficient homes to meet demand — driven by weak investment, high costs, and a combative and constraining planning system.”

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Optimism abounds in UK housebuilding despite supply issues


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