Series of moves to come into force from tomorrow
Estate agents can reopen for business from tomorrow morning and house viewings in person will now be allowed as the government looks to get the housing market moving again.
Other measures include reopening show homes and letting removal firms get back up and running.
And housing secretary Robert Jenrick said housebuilders will be allowed to keep sites open for longer in order to stagger builders’ arrival times and ease pressure on public transport so they can meet social distancing protocols.
Jenrick said: “This critical industry can now safely move forward and those waiting patiently to move can now do so.”
The moves, which only apply to England, come after the market all but ground to a halt in the wake of the lockdown introduced by Boris Johnson seven weeks ago.
Dozens of housebuilders were forced to furlough staff with the country’s largest, Barratt, putting more than 5,500 of its staff – around 85% – into the government’s job-saving initiative which earlier today was extended by four months until the end of October.
The scale of the crisis facing the industry was underlined in recent provisional analysis by the Construction Products Association, which said that housebuilding activity has slumped by 85% during lockdown.
This was even gloomier than previous forecasts with figures from construction data firm Barbour ABI showing that 72% of housebuilding sites had shut during lockdown.
Other initiatives announced by Jenrick include allowing local councils and developers to publicise planning applications through social media instead of having to rely on posters and leaflets and setting up a Safe Working Charter in conjunction with the Home Builders Federation (HBF).
The charter will mean signatories commit to returning to work safely, including working with their subcontractors to implement social distancing and staggered start times, as well as detailed safe working practices.
HBF executive chairman Stewart Baseley said: “The industry sustains hundreds of thousands of people in numerous roles and associated sectors, boosting local economies across the country. A resumption of work will play a major part in helping the economy recover as well as delivering the homes the country needs.”
Jenrick said guidance from Public Health England must continue to be followed.
He added the Safe Working Charter was in addition to the guidance available form the Construction Leadership Council and the separate advice it issued for several sectors, including construction, yesterday.