It’s a well-known fact that we are not supplying enough affordable and social homes to meet demand with around 70,000 households currently on housing waiting lists in Wales. Admittedly, building new homes isn’t the only solution to this crisis; we have a high number of second homes in Wales (25,000) and a significant number of empty properties (28,000). Political moves are afoot to grapple with these issues, but we must face the fact that there will always be a proportion of our housing that is dormant for one reason or another. 

The biggest impact on this crisis will therefore come from building more homes.

Welsh Government recently entered a “cooperation agreement” with Plaid Cymru and have vowed to deliver on a set of agreed policies, one of which is to set up a new National Construction Company called ‘Unnos’ to help deliver more affordable and social homes. There have been no commitments on timescales, but with it being a three-year agreement, something will be in place by 2025 at the very latest. Find out how FMB Cymru responded to this development in this Business Live article.

When the announcement was made, the word “company” set jitters amongst house builders. Builders feared the establishment of a Government-backed competitor in an already competitive field. They were concerned that a powerful new kid on the block would be dipping into their depleted pool of skilled labour and pinching the land made available for development.

How is the FMB involved?  

The FMB has met with Welsh Government and we’ve been assured that the purpose of the venture is not to compete with the sector but rather to facilitate housing delivery by helping identify and fill the gaps that are preventing homes from being built. A minor point perhaps, but titles should be what they say on the tin and the word ‘Company’ is a tad misleading if the purpose is to help guide, facilitate and alleviate barriers. ‘Centre’ or ‘Hub’ would perhaps better describe this new body.

We have been further assured that a meaningful dialogue with the SME house building sector will be central to the process of shaping the remit and parameters of this new organisation. Here are some initial thoughts on some of the areas that it could get involved in:

  • Help companies transition to build net-zero homes.
  • Help encourage, guide and support new entrants into the house building sector.
  • Help alleviate skills gaps.
  • Help streamline and simplify the planning process.
  • Help the delivery of Local, Strategic and National Development Plans. 
  • Help planning authorities meet National Planning Policy obligations.
  • Work with lenders to improve access to finance for SMEs. 
  • Consider innovative solutions to provide SME house builders with reliable access to building materials.

We look forward to discussing some of these ideas and much more with Welsh Government and others over the coming months. We’re all after the same thing which is to build more homes. Let’s all use the establishment of this new body to renew our collective enthusiasm to make this happen.

Find out more about our campaign to reverse the decline of SME house builders on our campaign pages.

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What are your views on the establishment of a new National Construction Company? Feed them in by emailing us with your comments.

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