Cross party of MPs demand greater support for SME housebuilders

April 5, 2018 / Isla MacFarlane
Cross party of MPs demand greater support for SME housebuilders

A cross-party group of MPs has urged the government to introduce a new ‘Dedicated Strategy for Small Housebuilders’ to reverse the decline in the number of new homes built by SME housebuilders, which has plummeted to just 2,500 today from 12,000 in 1998.

Describing the new proposals, MPs on the APPG for Small and Micro Business, leading the report, said, “We have many legitimate disagreements with each other on many aspects of housing policy, but on this we are agreed: we cannot solve the housing shortage without smaller builders.”

‘An Inquiry into Support for Small Housebuilders’, supported by the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), calls for a ‘Dedicated Strategy for Small Housebuilders’ which must address the key challenges holding housebuilders back, including:

  • Limited access to finance: MPs are calling for a Government backed guarantee on loans to small housebuilders, who are more reliant on financing than bigger builders with large reserves of cash;
  • Action against businesses that pay their suppliers late: The report asks for a strengthened prompt payment code with a new “three strikes and you’re out” rule targeting big businesses who repeatedly pay late;
  • More help to increase apprenticeships in the building trade: Large businesses paying the new apprentice levy must prioritise transferring their levy to small, rather than large, businesses, helping to increase apprenticeship opportunities in the building trade;
  • Remove barriers to building on small sites: Government must use the revised NPPF to streamline the planning process for smaller firms.

Robert Courts MP, Chair of the APPG, said, “Government action has started to address some of the needs of small builders but we must leave no stone unturned to truly unlock the housing market.

“A new, dedicated strategy for small housebuilders would be an important step in achieving this. This needs to centre on a positive package of measures that removes some the biggest barriers for small builders including the inability to access finance and reducing the cost of developer contributions like the Community Infrastructure Levy.”

Catherine West MP, Vice Chair of the Inquiry, said, “The current state of the UK housing market leaves no doubt that there is huge potential for small builders to make a vital contribution to building the homes we need.

“Our report sets out a series of proposals that will enable small builders to scale up, grow and build more which will help relieve the housing shortage.

“The simple truth is that the UK cannot expect to build the homes we so desperately need unless smaller builders are backed. Giving small builders the keys they need could result in tens of thousands of urgently needed homes being built up and down the UK.

“This will help create jobs, stimulate economic growth and provide the homes the UK need.”

FSB acts as the secretariat for the APPG and supported them on the inquiry.”

Mike Cherry, National Chairman at the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), added, “Small housebuilders will welcome the cross-party effort to shine a light on the very real challenges that are holding them back from playing their part in building the homes the UK needs.

“It is vital that the Government does not turn a blind eye to the findings of this report and commits to creating a dedicated strategy aimed at giving small homebuilders the finance, skills and support they need to help fix the broken housing market.”

Steve Mansour, CEO of building insurance specialists CRL, has commented, “The state of the UK housing market underscores the huge need for small and medium-sized builders, who make a vital contribution by developing and selling homes quickly. This report sets out proposals that will enable these businesses to grow. A revitalised strategy for housebuilders is a step in the right direction, helping tackle issues at the forefront of the construction industry. Recent government action has started to address some of the needs of SMEs, but all efforts must go towards enabling developers to reach their full potential to help solve the housing shortage.

“We must continue to look at innovative ways to encourage UK developers, including small and medium-sized builders who fight daily to overcome bureaucracy and red tape, as they seek to build new homes across the country. It is imperative that the government heeds the findings of this report and commits to creating a dedicated policy to give small builders the finances, support and skills they need to help fix our broken housing market.”

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