John Tutte, chief executive at Redrow
The big issue
A real shortage of new homes and rising demand among buyers will continue to underpin the housing sector in 2017 as rates of housebuilding currently only meet four fifths of what is required. No one solution to the problem exists; rather a multitude of efforts from across the industry, government and local communities must be seen to overcome the issue. The industry is awaiting the release of the housing white paper, scheduled for around mid-January 2016, to see what strategic measures government puts forward. Unless a sea change occurs, the undersupply of homes will mean that many will be denied the opportunity to get on the housing ladder and own their home.
The big challenge
Planning remains the number one barrier to building more homes and the biggest challenge facing the industry in 2017. Recent research from the Federation of Master Builders and the Local Government Information Unit shows that 87% of local authorities don’t believe that the new government will reach their housebuilding target by 2020. Conditions associated with planning permission must be changed if we are to build more homes faster, while local authority planning departments must also be reformed, and adequately resourced, to ensure that all applications can be swiftly processed.
The big opportunity
The announcement of the £2.3bn Housing Infrastructure Fund to overcome local objections and unlock 100,000 new homes in areas of high demand presents a massive opportunity for the industry. Alongside the building of these homes, we must prioritise infrastructure that supports local communities and helps them to grow. Importantly however, councils must implement local plans to ensure that community housing requirements are clear.
The big project
The construction sector has suffered from a shortage of skilled workers for many years. However, in a post-Brexit landscape where immigration is uncertain and as we near triggering Article 50, it is more important than ever that we both attract and retain an effective workforce. While it would be easy to identify several big regeneration / development projects in 2017, by far our biggest project must be a recruitment drive for more workers. From apprenticeships and trainees to experienced professionals, skills across all areas of the industry are vital if we are to deliver any big project in years to come.
The big story
Potential news that local governments could be denied access to the landmark £2.3bn Housing Infrastructure Fund unless they have a local strategic plan in place is likely to generate much discussion in 2017. Taking into account how squeezed local authorities already are for funding, it will be a contentious measure if implemented.