The Government recently announced that it is directly commissioning 13,000 new homes on five sites across England – the largest housing scheme led by central Government since Thatcher’s redevelopment of the Docklands, east London, in the 1980s. Find out more about the new project here: https://landlordnews.co.uk/17473-2/
This pledge arrives after the Autumn Statement revealed Chancellor George Osborne’s plans to build 400,000 new homes before the 2020 general election. He stated that these would be in addition to the properties currently being built in the UK. However, these homes in total will still fall short of the minimum 250,000 homes per year needed to meet demand.
So what does Britain need to meet this target?
Britain managed to build over 200,000 homes in one year back in 2008, but brick stocks were at 1.1 billion and production was at 1.9 billion, keeping orders managed and prices stable.
In October 2014, brick stocks dropped to a low of 323m, but increased slightly to 535m at the end of October 2015.
In 2004, stock was at a stable 617m and production hit a huge 2.87 billion. However, ten years later, only 1.8 billion bricks were produced. Many brick factories being shut down immediately after the 2008 financial crash caused this significant decline in production.
In 2015, a number of takeovers in the brick industry saw production increase, but to reach the level of house building needed without importing huge quantities, the rate of production will have to at least double.
The current number of construction workers in the UK is around 2m, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS). This figure has been relatively steady over the last ten years.
A construction recruitment firm, Randstad, estimates that 980,000 construction workers built around 148,000 homes in 2015. This workforce will need to at least double to meet house building targets as well as the homes already planned.
Randstad’s study indicates that construction productivity is currently one house per 6.6 construction workers.
But the construction workforce is ageing quickly – 7% of workers are aged 16-25, while 10% are aged between 56-60 and 9% are over 65.
Built asset consultancy firm EC Harris explains in its report People and Money that by 2019, at least 224,000 workers will need to have been added to the total amount of construction employees and a further 700,000 will be required to replace retirees.
But in 2013, less than 20,000 first-year trainees joined the construction industry – 5% of the amount needed. This figure halved between 2005-2013 and has not yet picked up. It is believed that the cause of this is that the building sector was hit particularly hard during the recession; 300,000 jobs in construction were lost, almost half of all the jobs lost in Britain.
To build 250,000 homes in Britain per year, 106% of all bricklayers and 73% of all architects would need to be working exclusively on housing. At present, just 51% of bricklayers and 35% of architects do so.
If the number of construction workers does not pick up, every bricklayer in Britain could be working on house building and there would still be a shortage. The level of skilled workers needs to grow sharply if the amount of homes promised is to come to fruition.