Britain is to build more homes, but will they be better quality homes? Philip Hammond underlined the government’s approach to solving the housing crisis in the recent budget, setting aside £44 billion of capital funding, loans and guarantees to support the target of building 300,000 homes per year. Additional support was pledged for SME house builders to help deliver the homes Britain so badly needs. Sarah White, residential sector manager at British Gypsum, provides some thoughts.
It’s a positive step. However, it was only a year ago that Mark Farmer forecast that maintaining an annual output of 200,000 houses a year would be “physically impossible” if we fail to tackle the skills crisis set to cripple the construction industry. The construction skills funding pledge was encouraging, but this isn’t a quick fix; we’ll need consistent and sustained funding to develop the skilled workforce we need to achieve this ambitious target. News that apprenticeships are down 59per cent since the apprenticeship levy was imposed is another blow, for an industry desperately needing to attract new entrants.
With all eyes on housing, there will also be added pressure to speed up construction to deliver the homes Britain needs. All of this adds up to a real risk that quality will be squeezed from both directions as we strive to meet stretched output targets with an inadequately skilled workforce.
There are many excellent examples of housebuilders who go above and beyond to build a better standard of home. And dryliners will bear witness to advances in plaster and partitioning systems that have brought many advantages to the new build process, in terms of saving time and cost of build and improving the overall quality of finish. At British Gypsum in particular, recent product innovations such as Gyproc Habito and Sound Solutions are all aimed at raising the standard of the products specified and the homes built.
The concern now is that we lose sight of these advancements under pressure to deliver. We have never been more educated on the negative effects poor housing can have on health, wellbeing and productivity. Let’s hope this remains an important part of the narrative – so we are building better homes, not just more homes.
Residential sector manager