Lack of people to build houses still poses a significant challenge according to construction bigwigs

Housing shutterstock 268679729

Industry has welcomed the news that the government is set to unlock funds to get council’s building houses but said it was just the first step to solving the housing crisis.

Yesterday, prime minister Theresa May signalled the start of a new era of council-house building in England by announcing an end to borrowing rules that stop local authorities using a key fund to deliver new homes.

In a measure to boost housebuilding that had gone untrailed, May used her speech to this year’s Conservative party conference in Birmingham to announce the move that councils have long called for – using the revenue from their existing social housing to invest in new stock.

The prime minister’s announcement was recognition that the only time in the past 50 years when the nation has delivered the 300,000 new homes a year her government is targeting, council homes have contributed a significant proportion of the count.

Mark Robinson, procurement specialist Scape Group’s chief executive, said: “To meet housing demand we need a revolution in housebuilding and this means thinking more innovatively about the method and speed in which we are able to deliver high-quality new homes.

“Greater use of modular and offsite housing solutions will be an essential part of improving the speed of delivery. The government must consider ways of amending the planning system to make it easier to build modular developments.”

And RIBA president Ben Derbyshire said: “The prime minister quite rightly says that the housing shortage is the biggest domestic policy crisis the country faces,” he said.

“But it is not enough to simply build more, the houses of today need to be designed and built to last. We will continue to work with the government to put the policies in place needed to secure high quality homes now and for the future.”

Hew Edgar, RICS head of policy, said: “40 years ago, local councils built 40% of all new homes; but for too long, councils have been limited in their capacity to make this significant contribution.

“We will monitor the outcomes of this policy closely in the hope this will genuinely bring in a new era of well-built, affordable council homes, delivered at scale, across the UK.”

But Brian Berry, chief executive of the FMB, warned there may not be enough builders around to put up the new homes.

“New homes of any sort will not get built if we as an industry don’t have the people we need to build them. Recent announcements on post-Brexit immigration rules, if implemented as currently understood, will be a serious threat to our ability to deliver on the promise of this policy.”

Earlier this week Mace chief executive Mark Reynolds said the government needed to rethink its Brexit immigration plan and said it had completely ignored industry worries over access to labour once the UK leaves the EU next March.