Builders cast doubt on Chancellor's 400,000 home dream as skills shortage starts to bite

Builders cast doubt on Chancellor's 400,000 home dream as skills shortage starts to bite

The Federation of Master Builders (FMB) have said cuts to apprenticeships could make housing target “unviable”

In a statement issued today, the Chief Executive of the FMB, the largest trade association in the building industry, called on the Government to make the building trade exempt from the new Apprenticeship Levy.

Brian Berry also warned of a serious shortfall in the capacity to build the quantity of homes Osborne envisages, the number of which hasn’t been seen in decades.

In response to the Spending Review, Brian Berry, Chief Executive of the FMB, said: “Faced with some difficult decisions regarding public spending cuts, today the Chancellor was right to ‘choose housing’ by prioritising investment in new affordable homes.

“The Government has confirmed plans to build 200,000 starter homes with 20% discounts for under-40s, 135,000 shared ownership homes, 10,000 rent-to-buy homes and 8,000 specialist properties for the elderly and disabled.

“This amounts to a £7bn public investment in new homes – a concerted effort to give aspirational home owners a helping hand onto the housing ladder.

“Nevertheless, ‘George the Builder’ will need a new generation of ‘real’ builders to make his vision for housing a reality. We’re already seeing housing developments starting to stall because the cost of hiring skilled tradespeople is threatening to make some sites simply unviable.

“Unless we see a massive uplift in apprenticeship training in our industry, there won’t be enough pairs of hands to deliver more housing on this scale. That’s why we’re keen for the Government to tread carefully when applying the new proposed Apprenticeship Levy to the construction industry.

“The Chancellor clearly recognises that the crisis of home ownership is inextricably linked to a crisis in house building. We therefore hope that in order to address both, the Government will do everything it can to increase house building capacity.

“SME developers will have an important role to play in delivering the smaller scale sites across the country. The last time we built in excess of 200,000 homes in one year was in the late 1980s when two-thirds of all homes were built by small developers.

“SME house builders now only build little over one quarter of all new homes which points to another serious capacity issue – we need more small house builders to enter the market and also for SME house builders to crank up their delivery of new homes in order to build the Chancellors 400,000 new affordable homes.”

Estate Agents have already expressed skepticism on the deliverability of the scheme.

Mark Hayward, Managing Director at the National Association of Estate Agents said: “We must applaud any – and all – initiatives to increase housing supply, however, what we need is next day delivery, not the promise of a cheque in the post.

“The announcement continues to talk about the ‘why’ and the ‘when’ but we simply don’t have the ‘how’ and the ‘where’. The house building industry is desperately short of human resource and if we are to get Britain building the number of new houses required, we need to address this problem to create actual homes and not aspirational targets.”

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