Preparing to tackle the housing crisis

Last year saw the publication of Sir Oliver Letwin’s report into the UK’s housing crisis. Among other recommendations, the report called for developers to build more social and affordable housing, as well as for councils to take a more proactive approach when it comes to housing planning within their respective regions. In particular, there is an emphasis on ensuring there is greater diversity on large construction sites.

The Letwin review was commissioned by the Government in 2017 and focuses on sites with more than 1500 homes in southeast England. The report finds that slow delivery of housing on large sites is a problem, something which is in part driven by the limited pool of people wanting to buy new-build properties (as opposed to rental or housing association), diminishing the incentive for developers to build quickly.

As a result, the report calls for a more diverse development pipeline, creating opportunities for organisations to build outside of the handful of major housebuilders that currently dominate the UK market. This intended ‘new breed’ of house builder includes housing associations, smaller housebuilders and pension funds looking for investment opportunities. The report also proposes giving local authorities in areas with higher demand for housing more power to identify land that can be developed as a single large site, as well as providing councils with more power to set up local development companies. Once in place, councils on high-demand areas should be able to designate and draw up masterplans for large sites in their areas, and local authorities should have compulsory purchasing powers to buy land at capped prices (10 times their existing value), to create more affordable housing options (rather than the more substantial multiples frequently commanded by landowners).

Finally, the report promotes the creation of a national expert committee designed to help advise councils on the type of properties that might be suitable for large sites, as well as providing support for the arbitration of disputes. The proposals are now being reviewed by ministers, with a decision expected early this year.

Making the most of the upturn in building

Whilst reaction to the proposals has been mixed, with some concerns raised around bureaucracy and ease of implementation, overall an intention to reduce current obstacles and deliver more housing at a faster pace should spell more opportunity for the construction sector. With that in mind, it’s more important than ever for suppliers to the construction sector to put themselves in the best possible position to take advantage of the planned growth in house building.

The Constructionline platform provides members with an up-to-date noticeboard of upcoming construction projects, enabling suppliers to quickly and easily identify suitable projects for which they may wish to bid. In addition, suppliers are made visible to prospective buyers via their membership, appearing in relevant searches when buyers are looking for project partners. The Constructionline team completes validation checks and updates supplier details within the system, so suppliers only have to provide evidence for each criterion once, rather than once per bid. Working in this way represents a far more time- and cost-efficient approach for time-pressed companies in the construction sector.

For buyers, an accessible and intuitive prequalification platform provides a means of quickly identifying suitable suppliers with the appropriate skills and within the regions required. At Constructionline we validate for the enhanced PAS91 question set, which means that buyers can be confident that they’ll only be presented with compliant prospective partners, giving real peace of mind.

Focusing on the areas that matter most

As compliance obligations and corporate social responsibility (CSR) trends evolve, so too has our platform. We validate for a broad range of criteria, aligned with the interests of our buyers. This means that buyers can simply filter for their own preferred criteria, identifying partners whose values align with their own.

For instance, we’ve witnessed a growing trend for organisations wanting suppliers with modern slavery and anti-bribery and corruption policies, as these issues are increasingly important, so they are criteria that we now cover on the platform. This is particularly true for public sector organisations, so an important consideration in light of the government’s house building proposals that place greater emphasis on local authorities.

Health and safety is such a significant focus that in order to access house contracts, suppliers must also demonstrate their adherence to standards such as SSIP. In fact, health and safety targets form part of most house builders’ core KPIs, often with financial penalties associated with a failure to meet targets. These targets cover subcontractors as well as directly employed staff, meaning that a demonstration of commitment to safety is vital in order to access house building contracts. Our members frequently use Acclaim to manage their ‘Deemed to Satisfy’ SSIP certificates, supporting a greater number of suppliers in meeting the standards required by house builders.

Tackling the housing crisis together

Whether the recommendations put forward by the Letwin review are supported or not, there is clear intent and momentum behind increasing the volume and pace of house building in the UK. In order to realise this ambition, it’s vital that we have the right infrastructure in place for buyers to access the right partners with the right skills and values to work on new projects; and that quality, compliant and reliable suppliers are available to fulfil the work required. In proactively completing validation checks as part of a Constructionline membership, businesses stand to maximise the opportunity provided by this planned upturn in activity.

Blog Housing