What will the housebuilding landscape look like going into 2021 and beyond? Although a clearer picture is emerging, Nigel Sedman, Group Director of Homes at ForViva, says investment in people is essential if the sector is to capitalise on opportunities and realise its ambitions
We have a much clearer understanding of what our development programmes will look like post-2020.
The Affordable Homes Programme (AHP) will see up to £12bn pumped into new housing. It could fund around 180,000 new homes – although, the government caveats that the changing economic conditions, as the Coronavirus pandemic develops, will dictate this.
There’s good news. The funding round is the biggest for 10 years and (for those of us outside of London) the money will be more evenly allocated.
There will also be some changes and challenges. There is a clear swing in momentum back to homeownership products, with half the funding proposed for Shared Ownership, and we will need to look carefully at the impact of the new Shared Ownership product and also the Right to Shared Ownership on our business models.
What is clear is that we still have a housing crisis, and we are still some way off the national target of 300,000 new homes per year.
Despite completing the highest number of homes since 2007, UK housebuilders registered just over 161,000 new homes in 2019. COVID-19 will have undoubtably influenced those figures.
The proposed changes to the planning laws and removal of Section 106 obligations on housebuilder schemes may also increase the scale of the development challenge for housing associations.
“There is a clear swing in momentum back to homeownership products – we will need to look carefully at the impact of the new Shared Ownership product and the Right to Shared Ownership on our business models“
Traditionally, half the number of affordable homes have come through this fairly simple delivery route, with housing associations purchasing properties from housebuilders.
Now, with registered providers needing to develop more sites themselves, we will naturally need more skilled staff in our sector to fill this gap.
As the economy attempts to recover, housing associations will have a major role in stabilising the market.
Yet, one of the biggest challenges we face within social housing is recruiting and retaining the best talent in the market. This is vital to ensuring we can increase supply.
With such big commitments to housebuilding, and with registered providers who previously weren’t developing their own homes now up and running with their own building programmes, the competition for talent has increased.
At ForHousing, ForViva’s social housing arm, we have been involved in housing development for seven years and have built up a bank of knowledge and talented people to make sure we turn funding applications into new homes that improve people’s lives.
But regionally and nationally, there remain a limited number of people with the skills and experience needed to bring new large housing developments to fruition.
We lost a lot of talent from the sector in the last recession, and there are no real recognised development-related training programmes to provide the skills to fill the gap.
A limited talent pool and an increased demand for staff is also driving up the salary costs and expectations within the sector.
Housebuilders in the private sector have traditionally had a greater ability to match or exceed wage packages, which is obviously an attractive proposition, meaning the social housing sector has sometimes missed out.
Now we have an opportunity to bring new people into our sector and keep showing them the value of working for organisations with a strong and targeted social purpose.
Retaining the best
We also need to start building from the ground up, creating a new generation of talent that buys into our values.
That means recruiting more apprentices and graduates at the start of their careers, and then ensuring we develop clear pathways for them.
“It is absolutely essential that we have notice periods that mean projects aren’t jeopardised if someone leaves an organisation midway through a critical period”
Of course, some movement of staff is natural and healthy where it enables individuals to develop their skills further. What we need is to ensure that there is enough talent across our sector so we all collectively stand ready to deliver more homes, when we are called on to do so.
We need to look at the terms and conditions we offer. It is absolutely essential that we have notice periods that mean projects aren’t jeopardised if someone leaves an organisation midway through a critical period, and that knowledge sharing and succession planning is strong.
We also need to showcase that delivering new affordable housing is an exciting and highly rewarding career in order to attract more talent into the sector and build resources for the future.
With a recession looming and still a great deal of uncertainty about the future, it has never been more important to ensure that we provide the quality, affordable homes that will be growing in demand.
This isn’t just a challenge for today. If we are to meet government targets and help as many people as possible find the homes they so greatly need, then this is a challenge that will require partnership working for the near-future and beyond.
Image: Nigel Sedman, group director of Homes, ForViva
Are you a social housing professional? Sign up for a FREE MEMBERSHIP to upload news stories, post job vacancies, and connect with colleagues on our secure social feed.