Housing target could be missed thanks to Brexit, says Shelter

Shelter calls for reform to avoid mistakes of 2008 crash


Building a million homes by 2020 could be a pipe dream without urgent housing reforms, according to a new report from homeless charity Shelter.

Analysis by research company Capital Economics, commissioned by Shelter, projects an eight per cent fall in housebuilding over the next year, as Brexit uncertainty has seen developers hit the breaks.

This would mean falling 266,000 homes short of the government’s target, unveiled last September, to build one million by 2020.

Britain would be building houses at the same rate as the time of the financial crash in 2008, it adds.

Campbell Robb, Shelter’s chief executive, said:

‘We welcome the government’s target to build a million homes by 2020, but without significant reform of housebuilding in England this won’t be met.’

Shelter’s report calls on the government to ‘take the bull by the horns’, with a number of ideas on how to boost housebuilding and meet this target:

  • A ‘Growing Britain Fund’ to invest in new homes and infrastructure, taking advantage of historically low interest rates. This would avoid the mistakes of 2008 onwards, with its housebuilding slump, small firms pushed out the market, and government focussed on boosting house prices.
  • A ‘Help to Build’ package to help smaller construction firms get land, including from the public sector. This would make up for large housebuilders not being able to meet the government target alone.
  • Directly commissioned housebuilding through small and medium-sized firms by the government. This would support private sector construction of affordable homes, which could be sold through local housing associations.
  • A transparent market, so small firms can find land to build on. 
  • People power, with local communities able to force landowners to make space for new homes to meet demand.

Robb adds:

‘We can’t repeat the mistakes of the last downturn by continuing to prop up a market which hasn’t delivered, and is too dependent on a few major players to build enough homes. […]

Only significant reform of our house-building market will build the homes we need, but with vision and ambition, we are confident that the new government can meet their target and give back hope to a generation struggling with sky high housing costs.’

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