Labour to create "army" of small builders

Delivering her first keynote address at NHBC’s offices in London, the minister announced Labour’s Build First initiative to create the right environment for an “army” of small builders to help build the homes the country needs.

Under Labour’s plans, local authorities would be obliged to include smaller housing plots in their five-year housing plans and allow smaller companies access to public land.

Reynolds said: “The key barrier for smaller builders is access to public land.

“The government has put too much emphasis on releasing larger pieces of land.”

Reynolds also confirmed Labour’s commitment to building garden cities with the proportion of the new towns to be built by smaller firms and custom builders.

The minister said: “The current government is in denial about the scale of the housing crisis. But it’s also true that other governments have not done enough to build the homes we need. This is not just about building homes but creating thriving communities.”

John Slaughter, HBF’s director of external affairs, added: “HBF supports in principle Labour’s wish to help smaller builders.

“But this wish will only succeed as part of a wider set of measures to improve land supply and reduce the regulatory burden for housebuilders.”

Labour also received backing from the Mortgage Advice Bureau which welcomed the announcement but warned that more had to be done to increase mortgage availability.

Andy Frankish, new homes director at Mortgage Advice Bureau, said: “We fully applaud the sentiment behind today’s announcement, although we must also remember that housebuilders have been forced to reduce the number of units they build until now because of the shortage of mortgages available.

“Help to Buy has made a significant difference to the outlook for UK developers and we are now seeing them step up production in response.

“There is undoubtedly a need for more competition, more regional activity and more choices for the customer. Working closely with local authorities and smaller developers on projects like custom build can deliver a big boost for UK housebuilding.”

Frankish said that the market continues to be dominated by larger developers but there is only so much they can do in terms of increasing production.

He added: “An influx of smaller developers could have a big impact on the number of new homes starts recorded each year.

“At MAB we are looking to work more closely with local authorities to understand their housing strategies and to help implement these by giving customers the advice they need and explain their options and what products are available to them.

“We set up the NewHomes network so customers could meet advisers with a specialist understanding of these products, and help them understand that owning a new home is not just a common dream but can become a common reality.”