How can home building in England be further boosted?

How can home building in England be further boosted? [Photo: kasplic via iStock]

Housing supply and new building activity has increased across England in the past year, but still falls short of targets for a million homes to be built nationwide before the end of the decade, new official figures have shown. 

According to data released by the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG), housing supply improved by 189,000 or so homes in the 2015/2016 year, which represented an increase of 11 per cent when compared to the year before, while the new delivery rate was also up by almost six per cent year-on-year.

However, in spite of these encouraging figures, which suggest a real uplift in housing supply over the last year, there's also still a long way to go. The industry remains well below its target of 200,000 homes per year needed to hit the overall goal of a million homes by the end of 2020. Some even suggest that the industry needs to be constructing even more than the 200,000 target, with years of undersupply leaving the market well short of the end goal, meaning that 300,000 a year is more realistic. 

So how does the industry tackle this issue, and can England build enough homes in the next few years to meet demand?

Focus on demographics

One of the most prominent criticisms of the last two governments and their housing policies has been the single-minded focus on first-time buyers, specifically when it comes to building new homes. The truth is that there are more groups out there that need, and would buy, new homes than just those who are looking to take their first step onto the ladder. A focus on a more widespread demographic of potential buyers could really help to boost the building sector and help bring the industry closer to its long-term targets. 

For example, while the government has focused a lot on bringing more young people onto the ladder in recent times, there are actually thousands of older people over the age of 55 across the nation who are looking for new homes that meet their needs more specifically, which represents a large gap in the market that is not being exploited. 

Build to rent

One major area of the market that could really help to boost the property sector as a whole is the build-to-rent industry. This is an area of property that has become more mainstream in the last few years as the demand for rental homes has risen. With more than five million people nationwide now tenants, and this number rising all the time, the need for purpose built rental homes is greater than it's ever been.

This type of accommodation has the advantage of appealing to those who are choosing to rent rather than becoming tenants because they cannot afford to buy their own homes; primarily younger professionals who feel it is more convenient to do so. This is an increasing target market that is always on the lookout for homes that meet their needs, such as on-site gyms, fast internet connections and ideal locations in terms of creating the perfect work-life balance, so if the build-to-rent market was to become a focus, it could deliver many new homes nationwide, especially in an area that would be in demand from tenants.