Developing homes in uncertain times

Brexit uncertainty has caused nervousness among developers and homebuyers.

But life goes on and the need for good quality homes to meet the housing shortfall is as strong as ever.

Since the EU referendum almost three years ago, the UK housing market has been weighed down by uncertainty.

The continuing political indecision makes this understandable, but it shouldn’t be used as an excuse to slow down the delivery of homes, especially when there is such a dire need for housing of all tenures.

Fear of the unknown has led many people to sit tight and wait to see what happens in every aspect of their lives, not least in buying a home, which for most is their largest purchase.

This may be fine for those who are adequately housed and can wait, but it is not a sustainable option for those without a home to call their own.

The challenge for the house building sector is to carry on building, not only to tackle the housing shortfall, but also to maintain the positive contribution the construction industry makes to the UK.

Housebuilders must work hand in hand with the government to find solutions to the impact on the supply of labour and materials following our exit from the EU.

Lack of significant investment in the construction industry could make our housebuilding aspirations uneconomical.

House prices may have stalled and sales plateaued, but the principles of supply and demand remain.

A catastrophic housing market crash was widely predicted around the time of the 2016 referendum, but this hasn’t materialised and the market has remained relatively robust.

It remains to be seen whether this changes when the UK finally leaves the EU, with or without a deal.

But for now, there’s a growing school of thought amongst both remainers and Brexiteers, that once there is some clarity around Brexit it will give the property industry a much-needed certainty and perhaps the homebuyers who have been holding back will be spurred into action?

What type of housing should we be building in these uncertain times?

Building the right type and size of homes, in areas where people want to live is fundamental.

The old adage of ‘location, location, location’ still holds strong.

Great locations with the services and amenities people need will always be in demand.

Some areas have always been resilient to market fluctuations and new ones are emerging, buoyed by significant infrastructural investment.

We need to think about the different tenures needed and provide a wide choice of ownership options including shared ownership, as well as social, intermediate and market rent.

Offering a variety of tenures has the added benefit of providing greater resilience to housebuilders in this challenging sales environment.

Quality of design and construction has always been important, and never more so since the quality issues highlighted by the Grenfell Tower tragedy.

Significant ongoing improvements are essential to strengthen the public’s trust in UK housebuilding.

The uncertainty around Brexit, and beyond, is set to go on for a long time, but we should hold our nerve and keep up the delivery of homes to address the UK’s housing crisis head on.