To the critical acclaim of the construction industry, the government confirmed plans for a new generation of council and housing association homes yesterday. Funding for affordable homes will be increased by a further £2 billion to more than £9 billion. But how exactly will this money be used to boost housing? Buildingspecifier investigates:

The numbers of homes will be determined on type and location of housing, and bids received for funding. With a typical £80,000 subsidy, this £2 billion investment can supply around 25,000 more homes at rents affordable for local people.

Ministers also confirmed plans to create a stable financial environment by setting a long term rent deal for councils and housing associations in England from 2020.

The funding will further support councils and housing associations in areas of acute affordability pressure, and where working families are struggling with the costs of rent and some are at risk of homelessness.

This complements recent announcements on supporting tenants in the private rented sector and on extending Help to Buy.

The government’s Affordable Homes Programme will increase from £7.1 billion of public funding to £9.1 billion, and the £2 billion additional funding for affordable housing could lever in total investment by housing associations and councils of up to £5 billion.

Since April 2010, around 333,000 affordable homes have been delivered, including 240,000 for rent. More than twice as much council housing has been built since 2010 than in the previous 13 years.

As set out in the Housing White Paper, to help encourage more investment in social housing, government will create a stable financial environment by setting a long term rent deal for councils and housing associations in England.

Under the proposal set out this week, increases to social housing rents will be limited to the Consumer Price Index (CPI) plus 1% for 5 years from 2020. This will give social tenants, councils and housing associations the security and certainty they need.

Previously, the government’s affordable housing policy primarily supported ‘affordable rent’ – rents of up to 80% of local market level – and low-cost home ownership. This announcement now extends support for ‘social rent’ – which are lower rents, set according to national guidelines.

These latest measures reinforce this government’s approach to back housing of all tenures – with more social housing; extra security for those in the private rented sector; and helping people get onto the housing ladder.

At an eventful Conservative Conference today PM Theresa May has announced an extra £2bn will be allocated to aid delivery of affordable housing in areas “where need is greatest.” She also confirmed an energy cap in a bid to alleviate fuel poverty. Buildingspecifier reports:

Affordable housing

At an eventful Conservative Conference today PM Theresa May has announced an extra £2bn will be allocated to aid delivery of affordable housing in areas “where need is greatest.”

“We simply haven’t built enough homes,” admitted May said, although she reassures that “help is on the way.”

“It won’t be quick or easy – but as Prime Minister’s I’m going to make this my mission.”

The Prime Minister highlighted that there will now be “almost £9bn” available for affordable housing which both councils and housing associations can bid for.

“We will invest an additional £2bn in affordable housing, taking the government’s affordable housing budget to £9bn. We will encourage councils as well as housing associations and provide certainty over future rent levels.

“In those parts of the country where need is greatest we will allow social rented housing to be built, at well below market levels, getting the government back into the business of building houses.”

Energy cap

The Prime Minister also revealed that caps on energy prices would be imposed under planned legislation. She gave a stark warning to energy firms that they faced a price cap on their “rip-off” bills under her new plans.

Draft legislation for the measure will be published next week, Mrs May revealed, as she accused firms of punishing loyal customers.

May commented “While we are in favour of free markets we will always take action to fix them when they are broken. We will always take on monopolies and vested interests when they are holding people back. One of the greatest examples in Britain today is the broken energy market. The energy market punishes loyalty with higher prices and the most loyal customers are often those with lower incomes, the elderly, people with lower qualifications and people who rent their homes.”

Industry reaction

Chief Executive of the National Housing Federation, David Orr said “In the aftermath of the tragic fire at Grenfell Tower, the prime minister said that we as a nation have not paid enough attention to social housing. Today, she is right to make a bold break with the past and commit to building the homes we need most – genuinely affordable homes for those on the lowest incomes.

“The additional £2bn will make a real difference to those let down by a broken housing market. Building homes for social rent will make work pay and help bring down the housing benefit bill in the long run by moving people out of costly private lets.”

Brian Berry, Chief Executive of the FMB, said “Despite the Prime Minister’s precarious political position since the General Election, Theresa May has today managed to take a braver and bolder stance on house building than any Prime Minister of recent years. The private sector will continue to expand the number of new homes it builds, particularly so if the Government succeeds in its aim of removing barriers that hold back small scale house builders. However, in the house building heyday of the 1950/60s, a healthy private sector was always complemented by significant levels of social house building. Indeed, we have only ever built at the level we need to keep pace with demand when both the private and public house building sectors have been firing on all fronts. In the 1960s, for example, we were building around 400,000 homes per year and half of those were social housing.”

“The Prime Minister’s plan is also an opportunity to help shape a stronger local house building industry. If councils can start to engage with smaller, local builders to deliver this new generation of council housing, it could further help to diversify the industry. This would also boost the capacity of the private sector through the provision of more public sector work. Indeed, the increased use of small and medium-sized building firms will limit the problem of land banking, as this is something small builders simply don’t do.

“There do remain however, some significant roadblocks to the Prime Minister’s vision. Following Brexit, the serious shortage of skilled labour the construction industry is already dealing with will be exacerbated if it becomes much more difficult for EU tradespeople, who have come to play a crucial part in plugging the industry’s chronic skills gap, to move to and work in the UK. Although the industry must seek to overcome this crisis by recruiting and training many more young people than we currently do, the Government must also be mindful and realistic about the continuing need there will be for skilled EU workers as it puts in place its post-Brexit immigration policy. Otherwise it will risk jeopardising the delivery of the bold new house building ambitions the Prime Minister outline today.”

Andy Sommerville, Director of Search Acumen, commented “Our country needs to embark on the greatest housing boom the UK has witnessed in a century. For decades, UK governments have neglected the critical issue of our nation’s housing shortfall and as a result we estimate by 2022 the UK will be short of a million homes.

“Theresa May’s pledge to invest an extra £2bn in affordable housing is the first building block to making up for years of under supply and we can only hope that this is not simply another empty promise to fix our broken housing market. Now that our leaders share the industry’s sense of urgency, we must act to build more homes and we must act quickly. The gulf between supply and demand is widening each day. For the property and construction industry, this is the cue for Britain to start building.”

Chartered Institute of Housing chief executive Terrie Alafat CBE said “We have been calling on the government to invest more in genuinely affordable homes for rent so the Prime Minister’s announcement of an extra £2 billion for affordable housing is very welcome.

“As we have been saying for some time, social rents, which are significantly cheaper than market rents, are the only truly affordable option for many people on lower incomes, so the recognition that we need more of these homes is a vital step forward.

“It’s also encouraging to hear that Theresa May agrees councils have a central role to play in building the homes we need at prices people can afford.

“The details of exactly how these new homes will be funded and just how many will be for the lowest social rents will be crucial. The number of homes for social rent funded by the government collapsed from 36,000 to just over 1,000 between 2010/11 and 2016/17. Reversing this trend will be a significant task – how much of this new funding will be dedicated to building these kinds of homes?

“There is much to welcome in these announcements and they are certainly an important step in the right direction, but we still need to do more if we are to finally build the number of truly affordable homes we need.”


The Conservative Conference 2017 and rumours are rife across the industry this morning that Theresa May will unveil plans for a major council housebuilding programme. If correct, this is a very exciting time for house builders and anybody with a professional interest in the housing sector.

Both The Sun and the BBC have made this a headline story, adding more weight to the argument.

If sources are to be believed, it would be the first time in decades that a prime minister has announced a major council housing boom. Could this be the beginning of the end of the housing crisis?

Buildingspecifier will be reporting. Don’t miss out!

Prime Minister Theresa May visited the scene this morning and witnessed the overwhelming devastation for herself. With many questions arising as to why the cladding allowed the fire to spread from the bottom of the tower to the top in just 15 minutes, she said that community around the Grenfell Tower are right to demand answers.

Confirming that an official enquiry will take place, she said “We need to ensure that this tragedy is fully investigated. People deserve answers. The inquiry will give them.”

London Mayor Sadiq Khan said “The Metropolitan Police have confirmed that tragically 17 people are now known to have died in the terrible fire at Grenfell Tower. Sadly this figure is likely to rise, and my thoughts and prayers remain with all those affected.

“Today the fire has been brought under control and the fire brigade and our other emergency services are continuing to work heroically. The operation is now shifting from the search and rescue phase to the recovery phase.

“Under these circumstances the full scale of the tragedy is becoming clear and there are pressing questions, which demand urgent answers.

This news follows the earlier announcement that fire checks will be carried out on all revamped blocks in the country.

Listen to the audio from Theresa May’s interview on the subject below:

In their election manifesto, the Conservative Party has pledged to 500,000 extra homes by 2022, as well as reaffirming their previous 2015 commitment to deliver a million homes by the end of 2020. As part of this, Theresa May must put SME house builders at the heart of her ambitious plans for housing, according to the Federation of Master Builders (FMB).

In response to last week’s release of the Conservative Party’s manifesto, Sarah McMonagle, Director of External Affairs at the FMB, said “The importance of addressing the country’s chronic shortage of homes is as great as ever, and the Conservative Party’s manifesto seems to appreciate the scale of the challenge ahead of us. A revised house building target of 1.5 million homes from 2015 to 2022 ups the ante on housing delivery again, but these ambitions can only be delivered with an accompanying focus on creating a more diverse and innovative house building sector. The decline in the number and output of smaller local house builders over the past few decades has led to the industry’s capacity haemorrhaging. To deliver the PM’s vision we will need to reverse this. The Manifesto’s explicit pledge to diversify the delivery of new homes is therefore extremely welcome. Key to doing this will be being able to build on some of the sensible reforms outlined in the recent Housing White Paper, which we hope to see implemented.”

“The Conservative Party’s manifesto sets out an ambition not only to build more, but to build better. There is a welcome emphasis on balancing the pressure for increasing the delivery of new properties with the need to deliver those homes to a high standard. As is widely recognised, smaller scale house builders have a strong focus on quality. By supporting greater diversity in terms of the companies building our new homes, a Conservative Government would be killing two birds with one stone. This is a vision that SMEs can build on.”

Prime Minister Theresa May will use her first regional Cabinet meeting this morning (23 January) to launch proposals for a modern Industrial Strategy to build on Britain’s strengths and tackle its underlying weaknesses to secure a future as a competitive, global nation.

As part of this strategy, May intends to invest time and money on improving UK competitiveness and skills in the nuclear power industry.

Prime Minister Theresa May said: “The modern Industrial Strategy will back Britain for the long-term: creating the conditions where successful businesses can emerge and grow, and backing them to invest in the long-term future of our country.”

“It will be underpinned by a new approach to government, not just stepping back but stepping up to a new, active role that backs business and ensures more people in all corners of the country share in the benefits of its success.”

What, no renewables?

This news will undoubtedly come as a disappointment to the many Brits opposed to nuclear power within the UK today. A string of costly issues regarding the delivery of Hinkley Point C and overwhelming national support for renewables bring the very need for nuclear power in Britain into repute.

Figures released last year confirmed that 25% of the UK’s electricity was generated from renewables in 2015 – an increase of 29% on 2014. Nearly half of this (48%) came from wind power alone. 1 in 8 units of electricity generated in the UK came from wind.

In comparison, coal generated 22% of the country’s electricity – down from 30% in 2014.

In a survey by Harris Interactive of more than 2000 UK respondents found that only ‘one in four people (24%) considered nuclear power to offer the greatest potential.’ This was further proved when a recent report from the International Energy Agency (IEA) and Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA) discovered that new nuclear power in the UK would be more expensive than in any other country in the world.

Interestingly, the Government’s own poll on the public’s views on energy, the ‘Public Attitudes Tracking Survey,’ showed that 76% of people support renewable energy and that 70% of people also said renewable projects provide economic benefits to the UK. Doesn’t it seems strange then to announce further backing of a controversial industry when public opinion and solid statistics are in fact tilted more in favour of renewables?

Investing in nuclear power is a costly and long term action. All eyes will be on Theresa May and her cabinet as she makes that decision – let’s hope she’s thought it through!

When Theresa May became Prime Minister, she announced that the UK government would develop an ‘industrial strategy’ to deliver a modern, innovative and competitive economy. Leading international infrastructure group Balfour Beatty are warning the government that projects such as HS2 run the risk of losing valued foreign workers post-Brexit unless tackling the skills shortage is made high priority within the strategy.

In Balfour Beatty’s latest publication entitled “Industrial Strategy: A Vision for Growth,” they highlighted that that around 2.2 million EU nationals working within the UK have helped make up a skilled workforce that the UK would be unable to source alone, should the free movement of labour be compromised.

The paper suggests that the heightened uncertainty surrounding EU labour in a post-referendum Britain risks causing severe recruitment and staffing difficulties. This in turn could lead to increased costs where demand for labour outstrips supply, resulting in long delays – especially on big projects such as HS2 and Hinkley Point.

The report says “An early and integrated policy response to both retain the skills of those who have migrated here and to ensure that the UK remains an attractive place for talented people to reside should be a key element of Government’s industrial strategy.”

Homegrown talent

Balfour Beatty has also stressed the importance of attracting and retaining new talent from inside the UK if we are to successfully thrive in a UK outside of the EU.

“The Government’s industrial strategy should also seek to address the skills shortage in the UK directly, by continuing to support the upskilling of our own workforce. If we want a successful industrial strategy then we must invest in the people who will deliver it, so skills, the investment in human capital, must be a priority in the industrial strategy. In this vein, we welcome Government’s plans to increase the number of apprentices by 3 million and introduce the Apprenticeship Levy.”

“However, we do not believe that the apprenticeship levy alone will be enough to meet the shortfall in skilled workers the infrastructure industry needs. To effectively resolve these skilling issues, we believe it’s necessary that for a collegiate approach to agree a clearly defined programme, designed through close interaction and genuine dialogue between government, industry and representative bodies, such as the Construction Leadership Council. Most importantly, the strategy should be adhered to over the long-term as we see in other countries such as Germany.”

Read the full report here.

Theresa May’s decision to scrap the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) is alarming as it signals that improving the energy efficiency of our existing buildings has been pushed ever-further down the list of Government priorities, according to the Federation of Master Builders (FMB).

Brian Berry, Chief Executive of the FMB, said “Three years ago Cameron told his officials to “cut the green crap” and May has taken this further still by dissolving DECC. This means that there will be no Cabinet-level Minister championing climate change issues at the highest level of Government, which is bound to result in less emphasis and less action. Andrea Leadsom’s appointment as Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs provides little solace when you consider that she has regularly voted against measures to tackle climate change in the past. This matters because for May’s newly-formed Government to side-line its green policies, would be to sacrifice their numerous economic benefits.

“May should make improving our existing buildings an infrastructure investment priority as the knock-on benefits for jobs and growth are enormous. A programme to make British buildings more energy efficient would generate £8.7 billion of net benefits. This is comparable to the benefits delivered by the first phase of HS2, Crossrail, smart meter roll out, or investment in new roads. And unlike these large infrastructure projects, work to improve our existing buildings is not at the mercy of the lengthy and protracted planning process – work could start tomorrow.

“We welcome the appointment of Justine Greening as Secretary of State for Education with responsibility for skills and apprentices, which previously came under the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. We hope that she continues the good work of Nick Boles in improving the quality of apprenticeships, which will in turn help elevate their status so that they are recognised by society as of equal worth to university degrees. Greening has a solid background in transport and treasury briefs which will no doubt help her understand the importance of having a properly skilled construction workforce. As we face the prospect of Brexit, combating the construction skills crisis has never been more important.”