The fast-approaching general election has been a catalyst for plenty of political promises in recent weeks, as the competing parties outline their manifestos ahead of the December 12 vote.

One of the more ambitious promises is Labour’s commitment to developing 100,000 new council houses and at least 50,000 affordable homes a year by the end of the Parliament.

Impossible plan

In a recent Radio 5 interview, Managing Director of Carr & Carr Builders and Chair of the FMB Homebuilders Group, Chris Carr, described Labour’s plans as ‘impossible’, citing a shortage of materials, talent and small housebuilders as some of the main reasons why it can’t happen.

It’s a statement supported by statistics, with only 6,287 homes built for social rent in 2018-19 and 1977 being the last year in which more than 100,000 council houses were built in England.

According to Carr, such a project could take anywhere between 10-15 years to complete at the current rate, unless more is done to encourage skilled and experienced tradespeople to become property developers.

This decline in the number of active small housebuilders can be seen over the last two decades. In 1998, 40% of new homes were built by independent developers – this has now dropped to 12%.

Small yet effective

Instead of spending years fighting for the planning permission to build large developments with hundreds of houses, there are clear benefits to acquiring smaller areas of land and building 4-50 homes.

Not only will this streamline the planning and construction phases of the project, but it will have minimal impact on the surrounding area, where long-term developments can cause disruption for nearby residents.

Independent housebuilders also carry a strong reputation for being attentive during project delivery, employing a smaller team of highly skilled workers rather than a large and cheap workforce.

This is usually evident in the quality of the finished properties, as local developers tend to take extra care during construction to avoid any long-term issues or backlash from residents.

Securing the funding

For development rates to improve, it’s important that more is done to stop the steady decline, implementing procedures that will help SMEs access support and resources.

The keyword here is funding. Once a consistent and reliable source of funding has been established, then small housebuilders will have the assurances they need to secure planning permission and begin construction promptly.

For this reason, there is an overwhelming need for experienced providers of short-term property finance who have a clear understanding of the market and the needs of independent housebuilders.

By collaborating with small housebuilders, the wealth of opportunities and benefits outlined can be unlocked, allowing the UK to make serious progress towards the UK’s need for new housing.