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Housing crisis needs action on planning, SMEs and housing for elderly, says Lords report

10 January 2022

The Built Environment Committee has published its report, ‘Meeting housing demand’, which concludes that the Government must address barriers to building much needed new homes. Too many people currently live in expensive, unsuitable, and poor-quality homes and housing supply needs to be increased to tackle the housing crisis now.

Key points

Key points highlighted in the report include:

  • The role of SMEs in the housebuilding industry has collapsed. SMEs should be supported by reducing planning risk, making more small sites available, and increasing access to finance.
  • The population is ageing and by 2050 one in four people in the UK will be over 65. The country needs more specialist and mainstream housing suitable for the elderly.
  • Uncertainty and delays to planning reforms have had a 'chilling effect' on housebuilding and created uncertainty for housebuilders and planners. We need more up-to-date local plans, and these need to be simpler, clearer, and more transparent. Planning departments need more resource to avert an emerging crisis.
  • The Government’s own figures show that skills shortages accounted for 36% of all construction vacancies and 48% of all manufacturing and skilled trades vacancies. Skills shortages must be addressed, through broadening the base of talent, upskilling and reskilling, including for the green skills needed to address climate change. The Apprenticeship Levy needs urgent reform. We call for the New Homes Ombudsman’s powers to be robust and adequately enforced to ensure homes are built to high standards of quality and design.
  • Government must change its approach to spending on housing. Over time the money spent on housing benefit should be invested in increasing the social housing stock. Right to Buy schemes are not good value for money: increasing the housing supply would be a more effective use of funding.

Chair's comments

Baroness Neville-Rolfe DBE CMG, Chair of the House of Lords Built Environment Committee said:

“The Government’s ambitious target of 300,000 new homes per year will only be met if Government takes action to remove the barriers for housebuilders, particularly for SMEs who 35 years ago built 39% of new homes but now build just 10%.

“The planning system needs urgent reform. Currently, less than half of local authorities have an up-to-date local plan: more councils need simple, clear and transparent local plans. Any new planning system will only work if local planning authorities have the resources and staff to implement it.

“Skills shortages in the construction, design and planning sectors must be addressed to unlock the required development, including the green skills needed to address climate change.

“Uncertainty and the absence of a clear policy direction has only exacerbated housing problems. Our report provides a package of proposals to help deliver much needed housing and address the critical undersupply of new homes.”

Further information