The Prime Minister’s announcement that the Government will lift the borrowing cap on councils to allow them to build many more homes is a victory for bold thinking and common sense, according to the Federation of Master Builders (FMB).
Brian Berry, Chief Executive of the FMB, said: “This is the most exciting, and potentially transformative, announcement on council housing for many years. It is something the house building sector and local authorities have been crying out for since the last economic downturn as a means by which to increase house building. Indeed, the only times the UK has built sufficient numbers of homes overall is when we’ve had a thriving council house building programme. Local authorities have a strong interest in delivering new affordable homes and many would have the appetite to directly fund this, but have been frustrated from doing so by an artificial cap on their ability to borrow against their assets to build homes. In a victory for common sense, Mrs May has now signalled that the borrowing cap will be scrapped to allow councils to build many more new homes.”
Berry continued: “We believe this could also have the added benefit of expanding the capacity of the private sector by providing more opportunities for SME builders. In this way, a stronger public sector house building programme can complement and help support a stronger, more diverse private sector. The private sector will continue to take the lead in delivering new homes, and to ensure it can do so, we need to continue to lay the foundations for a diverse private sector in which new firms can more easily enter the market and small firms can more easily prosper and grow. However, in order to deliver the number of new homes the Government is targeting it is going to be necessary for the private and public sectors to both be firing on all cylinders. That’s why this announcement is so welcome.”
Berry concluded: “However, as much as this is a bold and praiseworthy move by the Prime Minister, 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. The failure of the Government so far to listen to the construction industry could unfortunately threaten the delivery of the Government’s increasingly bold moves to solve the housing crisis.”
Before the introduction of the cap under Margaret Thatcher, councils built around 10,000 homes a year – but that figure has subsequently dipped as low as 100. The amount of extra investment in housing could be around £1bn a year, but this is dependent on how many councils decide to borrow.
Source: fmb.org.uk / The Guardian