The economic downturn of 2007, followed by the subsequent crash, multiple changes to housing funding and now Brexit – being a construction director has been a rollercoaster in recent years.
At Optivo, we’ve worked hard to keep building, despite the challenges, and I’m proud that we’re expanding our development programme. While there’s still uncertainty in the market, there are some very encouraging signs.
After so much change, it’s fantastic to see housing policy high on the government agenda with a real drive to increase the supply of affordable homes.
This is backed by Theresa May’s announcement of funding for the ‘most ambitious’ housing associations and a target of building 300,000 homes a year by the mid-2020s.
The Mayor of London has also committed to the delivery of 116,000 affordable starts by 2022.
These are really encouraging signs, but it doesn’t mean we won’t face challenges around delivery and construction along the way.
My key role at Optivo is to drive and deliver our ambitious development programme against this backdrop of an ever changing landscape.
So, what are some of the challenges?
There have been calls for a root and branch review of construction following the Grenfell fire, and the subsequent Hackitt Review, along with the Social Housing Green Paper.
The government is quite rightly looking at resident safety. They’re looking beyond supply and focusing on safety and quality of all homes, leaving housing providers with much to consider when it comes to existing stock and new build.
Another challenge is the high land value expectations from landowners. Although value increases have been slowing, this remains a big challenge – particularly in London and the South East.
And, of course, not a day goes by where Brexit isn’t mentioned. The uncertainty which comes with a looming Brexit means we’re seeing a few things happening.
The market is flattening which makes viability on site more difficult.
There are challenges around workforce management as we see a reduction in available labour on site. Housing associations’ reliance on the EU for construction workers and building materials means Brexit will have a real impact and is already having an effect.
Here at Optivo, we’re already looking to address a potential shortfall in this workforce. Our Social Impact Team are running training courses with our partners, opening the door to the next generation of construction workers.
There is a push to do more modular and off-site construction, but this is challenging within standard procurement and construction processes. While modular construction is an exciting growth area, it’s not a mature, well-established market.
So, how do we cope with all of these challenges? Well, my team is determined to ensure we’re delivering much-needed homes by tackling these challenges head-on.
My mantra can be summed up by five simple rules: be realistic about your programme, keep ahead of the delivery curve, choose the right procurement process, be prudent in your sales forecasts and continue to embrace innovative funding models.
As a construction director, it’s imperative I lead from the front. It helps I’m supported by a team who are passionate about tackling the housing crisis – no matter what changes we face.