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HBF POLICY CONFERENCE 2023 – THURSDAY MAY 11TH , ONE WIMPOLE STREET, LONDON.
Housebuilding is facing an “unprecedented” threat from the government’s changes to the planning system and lack of support to solve the nutrients issue, according to the Home Builders Federation’s Stewart Baseley.
Speaking at HBF’s Policy Conference held in London today (May 11), the HBF executive chairman said he was struggling to remember a time in the past 40 years or more, “when there were quite so many complex challenges operating at the same time”.
But he highlighted the combination of government’s seemingly anti-development stance through its revisions to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) and its inadequate approach to schemes seeking nutrient neutrality as “frightening”. The two issues were “a threat to housebuilding, the likes of which I’ve never seen”, he said.
On the government’s proposals for the NPPF, he said: “It’s never been my policy to fight our [HBF’s] battles through the press but it’s important to explode this issue”.
Baseley referred to Conservative ministers who were taking a more “sympathetic” stance than other MPs towards housebuilding. On this note, ex-housing minister and MP Brandon Lewis expressed his support for the sector in a speech that followed Baseley’s. He said that housing was “the most important topic for me to talk about” economically and philosophically, noting that those constituencies that accepted more housing performed better.
But he pointed out that developers needed to press the case for housing, in collaboration with councillors. “There’s a partnership piece to do. How can you make councillors’ lives easier to help communities understand that those homes are right for them?
“Developers can explain to communities what the benefits [of new homes] are.” He also pointed out: “Well-built homes increase the value of all homes in the area.”
Detailing the housing investment climate, Mark Aedy, md and head of EMEA Asia Investment Banking at Moelis & Co, said that last autumn, with the mini-Budget as a backdrop, the UK had become “uninvestible”.
But since this worrying low, the housing sector had “performed better than people had feared”. Aedy said that the government stance “had been unhelpful” but once interest rates showed improvement, “investors will start to think the housebuilding sector is good value”. The quoted housebuilding sector was also “very cash positive”.
“We may see more support for the sector when inflation goes down,” he added.
Also speaking at the conference, professor Christine Whitehead, The London School of Economics’ emeritus professor of housing economics, reflected on a recent LSE report, Why is Housing Policy in such a mess?
She highlighted the lack of coherence in policy thinking, particularly with the Infrastructure Levy, and consideration over how policies relate to others. “There is a belief that we have to be active – putting out something new, without thinking about how it all fits together.”
Victoria Anthony, group HR director at Hill, spoke about encouraging more women into construction roles. She referred to HBF’s site management programme in collaboration with Women into Construction, an organisation that Hill has also been partnering with.
She said the site management programme, launched in January, had received an “immense” level of media attention, creating a vital platform for raising awareness of the diversity issue.
And Esther Dijkstra, Lloyds Banking Group’s md of intermediaries, addressed Lloyds’ and the sector’s current performance with ESG. She said: “ESG is really important. There’s still a lot of work to do.” But with the sector working together, she said she was confident it would improve its credentials in this field.
Other speakers at the conference included Connells Group's David Livesey, Savills' Lucian Cook and Emily Williams, NHBC's David Campbell and Lichfields' Matthew Spry.
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