This Forum brings together government and industry to share best practice and support new entrants into the housing market. It gives policy makers feedback on the issues they need to be aware of, making this a highly relevant initiative as the Government looks to accelerate and increase house building and to address issues of quality.
In January this year, the Forum met to look at future prospects for 2018, including the Government’s Industrial Strategy, the draft New London Plan and opportunities for small builders.
The key outcomes from the meeting included the need for collaboration and partnership working, stating that through partnerships and learning from one another the industry will be able to rise to the challenge of increasing the supply of new homes. The sector needs to recognise and promote the contribution that all the different players can make and any level.
While central and local government have provided policies and funding to help SME house builders, these need to be designed and delivered in a way that they can be easily accessed and utilised.
AMCM Group CEO Jon Wardle, who is a member of the Forum, specifically looked at growth opportunities for the smaller builder. Being an SME, AMCM Group’s focus is on building quality homes, and Jon commented: “There are opportunities as well as challenges for small builders. For example, the opportunity for housing associations and developers bid as part of joint ventures and turnkey contracts. SMEs need to consider how they can stand out in the normal contracting process and add a premium. They can be part of the solution if used correctly because there are opportunities to collaborate with the majority of new housing on smaller schemes (schemes of 500 units and more account for only 14% of development).
“SMEs want to work quickly, especially on small sites yet such sites often need high initial investment to make them suitable for housing. This is a risky business for SMEs and the industry needs to find a better way to support them (patient investors). Off-site manufacture is being used by some SMEs and there is likely to be some off-site solution on every site but this requires different skills and investment.”
It was also discussed that the residential sector needs to take the opportunities awarded to it by using all the funding the Government has made available and to increase the supply of new homes. To do this, the sector needs to work collaboratively together to increase its influence with Government to benefit from the Sector Deal and funding.
With land requirements doubling in most London Boroughs, there is a concern that the draft New London Plan will restrict use of low grade industrial land for housing – this land can be used for more innovative ways of providing homes.
Elliot Kemp, Principal Strategic Planner on the London Plan Team for the Greater London Authority said: “The Mayor’s seven strategies have been integrated into the draft London Plan that will be adopted in the Autumn 2019 after the current consultation and its examination in public (autumn 2018). There has been a new approach to the Plan, with clearer policies that can be directly adopted by the boroughs so that they can focus on delivery.
“Good growth is the Plan’s guiding principle, growth that will be sustainable. There is clear spatial detail identifying where development and infrastructure is needed, as well as a new assessment of housing need.”
The Forum will continue to meet throughout 2018 to progress on the areas identified for growth and offer support to Government initiatives.
Further details on the outcomes from the meetings can be found on The Housing Forum website.