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UK New Build Starts Fall 9% In Q1 2019

In the first three months of the year, work began on 36,630 new-build properties, official government figures show, representing a nine per cent drop on the last quarter of 2018.

According to the Financial Times, the government’s target for new home construction (300,000 new homes annually by the mid-2020s) is now at risk as skills shortages and political uncertainty over Brexit make their presence felt.

Another worry for housebuilders are the forthcoming restrictions on the Help to Buy equity loan scheme, with access set to be narrowed to first-time buyers from 2021 and the entire scheme due to be phased out completely by 2023.

Currently, around 40 per cent of new-builds are bought using the scheme that sees buyers able to put down deposits of as little as five per cent on a property worth up to £600,000.

Independent housing market analyst Neal Hudson explained to the news source that the fall in new starts does look like it could potentially prove problematic in the future, with overall housing delivery seemingly levelling out at around 220,000 net additions each year.

Even with solutions like modular housing and turning to rental developers as a possible source of supply, Mr Hudson noted that it is still unlikely the target of 300,000 will be achieved and chasing after it could mean that the wrong houses are sold in the wrong locations and at the wrong price.

“You could build a load of one-bedroom houses in the greenbelt, but that’s not a sustainable approach to housing delivery,” he went on to say.

The Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee has just issued a warning that the government that being over-reliant on traditional building methods will see the country fall short of its 300,000 home target by the mid-2020s.

It is therefore advisable to unlock the potential represented by modern methods of construction (MMC) in order to build homes quicker and more cheaply, while still prioritising build quality. But action must be taken soon in order to increase capacity and help support investor confidence if MMC is to have a meaningful impact on the country’s housebuilding targets.

MMC includes innovations such as digital working, new materials, precision manufacturing techniques and so on, processes that can be used alongside traditional methods of building while allowing for increased use of offsite construction.

At the moment, the use of MMC in this sector is low and supply chain capacity will have to be increased, with more focus put on making sure the workforce has the necessary skills in place to support adoption of developing technologies.

The government was advised to work with organisations such as Homes England and the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre in order to devise targeted programmes for use in the manufacture of MMC properties.

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