The Conservative Party Conference formed the stage for a number of important announcements:
confirmation that Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond would put pragmatism ahead of fiscal rules, news that article 50 would be invoked no later than the end of March 2017 and details on a £5 billion house building program to double the pace of home construction between now and 2020.
The £5 billion housing plan had been expected later in the year so to hear details of it in October was welcome news for the construction sector and economy. Particularly as it followed more information on the Brexit timeline, that may perhaps cause a hiccup in output and confidence.
UK Communities Minister Sajid Javid and the Chancellor both detailed the plan while outlining the problems a shortage of homes is creating for the UK and its inhabitants. Communities Minster Javid said more must be done in order to build more homes where they are needed and said there was no room for Nimbyism (not in my back yard).
“Everyone agrees we need to build more homes,” Mr. Javid told party members. “But too many of us object to them being built next to us. We’ve got to change that attitude. So my message today is very clear: it’s time to get building.”
The Conservative party will spend £5 billion to help change that Nimbyism attitude and build one million homes by 2020. The details of the new plan include £3 billion to be help fund the construction of 25,000 homes in this parliament, while a further £2 billion will be used to make public-sector owned land available for new, faster methods of building.
"There has been a housing shortage in this country for decades, and this government is determined to take action to tackle it,” Philip Hammond said. “We'll use all the tools at our disposal to accelerate housebuilding and ensure that over time, housing becomes more affordable, that is why we are committing £2billion of additional investment towards this.”
A £5 billion house building package certainly sounds impressive. However, with £3 billion spent on ‘helping’ to fund just 25,000 homes, its clear more needs to be done. And that something doesn’t just have to be about spending money. The UK’s planning system has been a bugbear for most builders working in the country at one time or another and calls for a significant overhaul have been almost constant background noise for a number of years.
Of course, no-one can please everyone! But, some carefully considered, hard work at tackling the problematic and often difficult to decipher system that’s currently in place certainly wouldn’t go amiss. Indeed, it regularly tops the list of many surveys asking construction sector members what needs improving to speed up home construction.
This new package and encouragement for innovation is a solid step in the right direction. However, the current Government needs to do more to prove it means what it says when it talks about making home-ownership more affordable.