Zac Goldsmith’s housing manifesto for London is right to identify small local builders as vital to addressing the capital’s crisis, but fails to go far enough, the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) has said.
Brian Berry, Chief Executive of the FMB, said: "Both of the frontrunners, Zac Goldsmith and Sadiq Khan, in the mayoral race have put housing front and centre of their manifestos and rightly so – whoever wins on 5th May, solving London’s housing crisis will be the greatest challenge they face. Clearly tackling the capital's shortage of homes will be a question of increasing both house building volume and speed, and Goldsmith's manifesto rightly recognises the integral role of smaller developers in achieving this."
Berry continued: "The pledge to give SMEs first right of refusal to build on small plots of public sector land could do a great deal to speed up house building rates in London. Smaller firms are widely recognised as building out their housing sites more quickly, which could be pivotal if the next mayor is to hit the highly ambitious 50,000 new homes a year target – a target that both candidates seem to agree on. Goldsmith is also right to identify the morass of red tape that disproportionately affects smaller house builders as being a serious problem that needs addressing. Not only is placing the same planning demands on SMEs as volume builders stifling new market entrants and innovation in the capital, but it's also closing off small urban infill sites across the city. These sites are exactly the kind of sites that would be popular among the first time buyers who Goldsmith is trying to appeal to."
Berry concluded: "However, there remains a lack of recognition for some of the major factors behind why London is a uniquely challenging environment for SMEs. Skyrocketing land values and the difficulties of securing funding for developments hit local developers here more than anywhere else in the country. Moreover, to introduce the role of a Chief Architect' to oversee every development built on public sector land could be a case of giving with one hand and taking away with the other when it comes to cutting red tape. This additional stage in the process would need to be very carefully implemented as it's difficult enough for SMEs to get permission to build without Goldsmith adding more rings through which to jump."