The FMB House Builders’ Survey is the only annual assessment to track the main barriers to small to medium-sized (SME) house builders in England. The four top barriers include a lack of available and viable land, the disproportionate costs and delays in the planning system for smaller builders, poor availability of developer finance, and the skills shortage. Following lobbying by the FMB for local authorities to pay more attention to small sites in their local plans and for central planning policy to do more to streamline the system for local house builders, the 2019 results showed that all four of the main barriers had eased. This is a success story for the FMB’s work in helping to shape Government policy in this space.

There is more work to do if we are to unleash the capacity of SME house builders and increase the speed with which we are delivering the new, quality homes that this country needs. Indeed, the House Builders’ Survey 2019 found that consumer demand for new homes had dropped by 8% – its lowest level since 2013. Almost half (48%) of survey respondents attributed this fall in buyer demand to a lack of consumer confidence. This means that the uncertainty around Brexit, which has been lingering for the past year, has been taking its toll on the market as prospective homeowners have been holding off buying in anticipation of more clarity from politicians. The Government needs to consider how it will support SMEs through these indications of a downturn in order to prevent essential skills and talent leaving the industry.

We are bringing the House Builders’ Survey to the attention of Ministers, Shadow Ministers and officials from the Ministry of Housing, as a basis for discussing how we can go further to address the challenges that small builders face in increasing their output of new homes. The survey was launched at a roundtable in the Ministry of Housing, where more than 15 civil servants were in attendance, including the Chief Planner and two Deputy Directors. The event and report were sponsored by JCB and JCB Finance.

Turning our attention to the year ahead, a priority for FMB lobbying will be understanding how small house builders and small sites are incorporated into the Government’s plans to bring all greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050. Master Builders are innovators and already leading in this field, however FMB members need to be aware of changes to Building Regulations and biodiversity requirements that are coming through.

Infographic showing the drop in consumer demand for new homes

This article was published in the December/January 2020 edition of Master Builder, the magazine of the Federation of Master Builders.