Back to housing

Glass Times editor Nathan Bushell revisits the recent Housing White Paper.

It says something about the plight of the housing situation in the UK when, on the one hand, it has been the single constant area of growth in construction for several months now, while on the other it remains one of the hottest political topics because it is widely agreed that not enough of them are being built.

It is no surprise, therefore, that companies have been digesting the government white paper that was published recently.

“There’s no doubt that the whitepaper marks a step in the right direction for the future of the UK’s housing industry. It is hugely positive to see the government lending support to local authorities and developers to resolve Britain’s housing crisis,” Ben Brocklesby, director at Origin, said.

“Many of the issues and challenges identified were discussed at length by leading industry experts during Origin’s Homes of the Future roundtable, which brought together housebuilders, architects, developers and economists to discuss the changes that needed to be made to support growth.”

The British Woodworking Federation’s chief executive Iain McIlwee, is also positive about the white paper.

“What is not to like?” he said. “The Housing White Paper reaffirms the government’s commitment to resolve what really is the biggest issue on our socio-economic landscape. Rather than seeking a magic bullet, it is a broad strategy that covers all parts of the housing sector, ensuring that the volume housebuilders are free and encouraged to build on available land, and vitally creating an easier mechanism for the custom housebuilder to literally fill in the gaps.  

Interestingly, Ben Brocklesby points out that manufacturing was not mentioned in the report, which is odd given that manufacturing is often used as a yardstick to measure British excellence, and it is experiencing something of a resurgence in recent months.

“Whether suppling bricks or bifold doors, manufacturers need to be geared up to support the new demand for building products,” Ben said. “In addition, greater emphasis should be put on the importance of specifying products ‘made in Britain’, with a focus on the quality of new homes, not just quantity.”

Just one personal observation. I am fortunate to travel a lot during the month, and I get to see lots of areas that have been ear-marked for new houses. It is always heartening to see new estates going up.

What is also striking is that housing is never built in isolation. On the smaller projects, the broader influences are less obvious – road widening, etc. However, on the larger sites, you could see major infrastructure projects going on nearby, which could include new roads linking to the major trunk roads, new business parks, improved drainage, cycle paths, even new retail parks.

Each of these has a knock-on economic benefit, which is something we have to be increasingly conscious of, especially since the Brexit vote has left some uncertainty regarding future flows of investment.