Driving industry change

7 Mar 2019

In the lead up to MIPIM, where we are programme partner to UK Government, Stephen Kinsella, Executive Director for Land provides our latest Homes England thought leadership guest  blog.

Without doubt, the current housing crisis is one of the biggest challenges our country has faced in a generation – and will impact on future generations unless we drive change now.   

But change isn’t easy and we need the entire industry to step up at this crucial time.

The development industry needs to work and think differently – adopting the same old practices simply isn’t going to increase housing numbers on the scale this country urgently needs.

I am passionate about my mission to direct Homes England’s interventions in the land market to deliver the best possible housing outcomes for this country.  But I recognise that change needs to start with us as industry leaders. If we want the sector to engage with us and address the challenges we face, we need to build confidence and demonstrate a willingness to listen and work collaboratively towards solutions.

To effectively increase housing supply across the country, we need to build greater strength and depth across the house building sector as a whole.   Larger house builders have become the backbone of new housing supply in this country – and the nation has become reliant on disproportionately few companies to build the homes it needs.   Whilst larger house builders will naturally continue to play a key part, Homes England must also use its land to help stimulate the growth of SME developers.

We have engaged on a wide scale with SMEs to understand the challenges they face and to identify ways in which we can improve their access to our land.   In response, we are now taking steps to break up our larger sites into smaller ones aimed at providing opportunities which are directly suited to smaller developers.

Disposal of sites to developers also represents a really important opportunity. Most pressing of all, our ambition to encourage a quicker pace of delivery, to promote the use of Modern Methods of Construction (MMC), to widen out the type and range of developers who are active in building out our sites, advocating good design and making sure the right mix of homes are made available as part of schemes developed on our land.

In response to the challenge of pace, we have recently introduced measures which commit our development partners to build out their schemes against an agreed programme – which now means we have a greater level of certainty than ever before as to when homes built on our land will be complete and ready for occupation.  

Improving the uptake of MMC technologies is vital.  At a time when the need for new housing supply is at its most acute level in decades, our pool of skilled construction labour is shrinking year on year.   Relying on traditional forms of construction is simply unsustainable – and so Homes England needs to show its advocacy for the cause by actively promoting the use of MMC on its land.

I have been really encouraged by the response of the development industry to the mission laid out by Homes England over the past 12 months.   It is clear to me that our partners have an appetite to work with us to drive change – and it feels, for the time being at least, that we have the confidence and support of the sector.