Rising inflation and living costs are affecting everyone in the property sector and elsewhere, but smaller builders and enterprises are particularly struggling with pressures from every side, which is having an impact on the supply of affordable housing in this country.
SME developers, by their very nature, are unable to deliver large-scale regeneration schemes, but those bigger schemes can also be like oil tankers in terms of manoeuvring and steering through planning, delivery and compliance.
Some of the big social housing providers I work with report that it can now take as a long as two years for their projects to go through planning. The longer they are forced to wait, the less likely they are to keep up with rising construction costs and are at risk of missing funding deadlines, so developments may not even be viable by the time planning permission is granted.
However, smaller, more nimble projects from SME developers can navigate the difficult planning system and compliance with greater ease, allowing them to respond to local housing needs much more effectively, thereby supporting communities and addressing the increasing demand for affordable housing.
It is these kinds of challenges that the new housing minister, Marcus Jones, and indeed the new prime minister need to explore to rectify the UK’s urgent housing need and create a more equal society.
We desperately require a housing minister that really understands and takes seriously the impact of problems like this, but in the last five years alone there have been eight separate ministers in the post, with many staying in the role for less than six months.
This means no minister has been able to deliver any meaningful and consistent changes or improvements to the current system – be it planning, legislation or raising the importance of affordable housing.
Although a solution to the delivery of affordable housing through the planning system is not going to be an easy or quick fix, the system requires a complete overhaul and government focus to ensure we can address the increasing housing crisis.
Jonathan Pearson, director, Residentially Chartered Surveyors