Industry bodies react to the party manifestos ahead of the general election on 8 June.
In response to the Conservative Party’s manifesto, former Government housing adviser and chief executive of The Housing & Finance Institute Natalie Elphicke said:
“The Conservative Party’s housing pledges – launched today in their manifesto – provide the country with a clear framework for building the homes the country needs. In particular, The Housing & Finance Institute welcomes pledges to extend support for deprived coastal communities and to proceed with more housing devolution.
“In extending the programme to help some of the country’s poorest seaside towns, the Conservative manifesto has heeded the call in our recent Turning the Tide report.
“We also know that housebuilding is most effectively co-ordinated at the local level. In awarding councils – particularly outside of the big cities – more power and money to meet their regional housing demands, we will be adopting an approach best placed to deliver the homes our country needs for the future.
“It is welcome that all main party manifestos have recognised the key role of councils as well as the need to continue to deliver many more homes for the country’s needs.”
In response to the Conservative Party’s manifesto, Lewis Johnston, RICS parliamentary affairs manager said:
“Today the Prime Minister made it clear that her Government intends to reduce net migration to the tens of thousands. Whilst this was included in the last Conservative Manifesto, against the backdrop of Brexit it is now a statement of intent with renewed vigour. The concern is that such a target will take no account of the need for skilled workers – we must not sacrifice the needs of the UK construction sector for the sake of an arbitrary target.
“Currently, 17% of the UK’s construction workforce were born outside of the UK, and it is a recurring concern across the built environment sector that excessive restrictions on immigration could jeopardise the delivery of the housing, infrastructure and construction projects the UK badly needs. The skills issue is even starker in the context of Brexit. Recent RICS figures showed that 8% of the UK construction workforce comes from the EU leaving 176,500 construction jobs at risk should we lose access to the single market without alternative plans. This could jeopardise a predicted £500bn pipeline of projects.
“The Conservative Manifesto rightly emphasises the importance of technical education and training to boost the capacity of the domestic workforce, but this is a medium to long-term measure – companies need assurances that they can access the skills they need now to ensure the health of the UK economy.
“It is encouraging that today’s manifesto acknowledges this, and commits to working with the Migration Advisory Committee to better align our visa system with the needs of our economy. However, the Immigration Skills Charge levied on companies employing migrant labour has been doubled to £2,000 – not a policy to reassure employers worried about the consequences of Brexit on the skills shortage – especially when 8% of construction workers are EU nationals. Our election document Priorities for the Built Environment calls on all parties to commit to an immigration system that helps not hinders the movement of skilled construction workers.
“Elsewhere the manifesto reiterates the commitments set out in the Housing White Paper, with an explicit acknowledgment of the role of social and council housing if we are to meet housing need. This is a positive step – we need a housing policy that drives up supply across all tenures and doesn’t just focus on home ownership.”
In response to the Conservative Party’s manifesto, Sarah McMonagle, director of external affairs at the FMB, said:
“The importance of addressing the country’s chronic shortage of homes is as great as ever, and the Conservative Party’s manifesto seems to appreciate the scale of the challenge ahead of us. A revised house building target of 1.5 million homes from 2015 to 2022 ups the ante on housing delivery again, but these ambitions can only be delivered with an accompanying focus on creating a more diverse and innovative house building sector. The decline in the number and output of smaller local house builders over the past few decades has led to the industry’s capacity haemorrhaging. To deliver the PM’s vision we will need to reverse this. The Manifesto’s explicit pledge to diversify the delivery of new homes is therefore extremely welcome. Key to doing this will be being able to build on some of the sensible reforms outlined in the recent Housing White Paper, which we hope to see implemented.
“The Conservative Party’s manifesto sets out an ambition not only to build more, but to build better. There is a welcome emphasis on balancing the pressure for increasing the delivery of new properties with the need to deliver those homes to a high standard. As is widely recognised, smaller scale house builders have a strong focus on quality. By supporting greater diversity in terms of the companies building our new homes, a Conservative Government would be killing two birds with one stone. This is a vision that SMEs can build on.”
Nicholas Harris, chief executive of Stonewater said:
“We’re pleased to see an all-party focus on mixed-tenure affordable housing and some ambitious housebuilding targets at a time when 1.2 million people in England are on a waiting list for social housing – and thousands more struggle to make the leap to their first independent home. However, the devil is in the detail and matching ambition with successful delivery will require investment in the right type of housing, in the right place, to meet local needs.
“Crucial to the success of all of these housing plans will be a faster and more efficient planning system which is currently hugely under-resourced; an unswerving commitment from politicians at all levels and of all parties to place the need for new homes at the heart of local and national decision-making; a clear commitment to tackling the nation’s chronic construction skills shortage through investment in trade apprenticeships, training and recruitment to meet homebuilders’ current and future skill needs; and the political will to build the decent, affordable homes that are so badly needed.
“As a leading social housing provider, we look forward to working with the next government at all levels to shape the detail of housing policy and deliver their manifesto promises.”