‘Laying the Foundations: A Housing Strategy for England’ – the beginning of the road to recovery? The Government’s strategy for housing was published today, outlining plans to invest £400million in a Get Britain Building investment fund and the release of public sector land with the capacity for up to 100,000 new homes. At Ligna we have been discussing whether or not this will be part of the much needed stimulus to get the UK construction sector up and running again – and indeed the economy at large!
The Strategy describes the finance the Government is committing: £400m to build affordable homes; hundreds of millions of pounds to help first-time buyers purchase, underwriting mortgages and reducing deposit requirements; and an extra £50m on top of the £100m from this year’s budget towards an initiative to refurbish empty homes. There are plans to accelerate the strategy by freeing up public sector land with “build now, pay later” deals for developers. It is hoped that the initiative will support up to 32,000 jobs.
An interesting element is the direction of funds to building sites that are already established but where work has seized. These ‘ready-to-go’ sites could be where the action kicks-off. The strategy also states that finance will be ring-fenced for small and medium-sized house builders.
The Government does not appear to be shirking its environmental responsibilities when it comes to construction. All new homes will meet the Zero Carbon Homes standard from 2016; Building Regulations (Part L) are being reviewed and expected to be further updated to improve energy efficiency and the carbon emissions associated with new housing; the National Adaptation Programme, due to be published in 2013, will outline how the Government is planning to include climate change adaptation design into the built environment.
We hope that the Government’s action successfully unblocks the market and returns confidence to a frustrated industry. More house building will be good news for the timber trade at large and to joiners, timber framers and staircase manufacturers, and more specifically those companies that have FSC and PEFC certification. With funds coming from the public purse, in keeping with the UK Government’s Timber Procurement Policy, there is an obligation to source responsibly. We hope this Government spending will not only boost construction but will also see a rise in third party verified, legal and sustainable timber use and implementation of Chain of Custody certification schemes such as FSC and PEFC.