Cut VAT on home improvements, urges FMB

The FMB has urged the Chancellor to use the Budget to cut VAT on home improvements, to make it easier for households to get works done, including green upgrades. It is also calling for an extension of the stamp duty holiday to breathe new confidence into the housing market.

Data from the FMB’s latest State Of Trade Survey for November to December shows that one in four builders reported lower workloads in the fourth quarter, rising from 21 per cent on the previous quarter.

More than four in five builders reported a rise in material prices, yet only one in three are increasing their prices, taking the hit themselves.

One in four respondents reported problems trying to find carpenters, joiners and bricklayers.

February 25th, 2021

£250m funding for SMEs

Homes England and United Trust Bank have announced a £250m fund to support small- and medium-sized builders with development finance at up to 70 per cent loan-to-gross-development value.

The fund will provide construction loans of between £1m and £10m. 

The partnership between the specialist lender and Homes England seeks to improve access to finance for SMEs, with applications open immediately.

Gordon More, chief investment officer at Homes England, said: “The Housing Accelerator Fund will help smaller builders get on and build now, as well as improve the lending landscape for SMEs by driving competition in the market, improving choice and encouraging innovation.”

United Trust Bank’s executive director, Noel Meredith, said: “This alliance will help to reinvigorate and increase diversity in the SME housebuilding sector, and boost housing supply in areas under the greatest affordability pressures.”

19 February 2021

Updated planning guidance on self build

The government has updated its Planning Practice Guidance on Self-build and Custom Housebuilding.

The revision to the original April 2016 legislation strengthens the guidance on the Right to Build, the common term used to describe the duties set out by the Self-build and Custom Housebuilding Act 2015, as amended by the Housing and Planning Act 2016.

Under the changes, custom-built homes on multi-plots and communal schemes can now qualify for exemption from the Community Infrastructure Levy. The guidance also adds weight to the RTB registers in terms of them being considered by local authorities as evidence of demand. Several other measures will support the delivery of custom and self build as part of wider local housing strategies. 

Andrew Baddeley-Chappell, CEO of the National Custom and Self Build Association, said: “The guidance helps to create a positive environment and temper some poor practice, and is a step in the right direction.

“Even better news is that there is more to come – with Help to Build, the upcoming grant-funded Serviced Plot Fund (Brownfield Land Release Fund) and the wider review of the Right to Build legislation.”

Mario Wolf, former director of the Right to Build Task Force, said:

“The need to bring the guidance up to date has been pressing for some time, as councils and practitioners have grappled with the Right to Build and questions around the application of national policy and the law in this area.”

Wolf, who is a director of Planning and Strategic Engagement at Custom Build Homes, added: “Although we are seeing a lot of sites coming forward, our clients remain frustrated by inaction and game playing by some councils in how they exercise their statutory duties and unnecessary debate around the meaning and intentions of the government’s policy.” 

February 15th, 2021

Property sales taking longer to complete

Properties are taking 29% longer to sell once under offer because of conveyancing delays, according to industry data analysed by Movewise.

Hold-ups with property searches and conveyancers dealing with a backlog of cases, have seen the average time to exchange contracts, once an offer has been accepted, increase from 96 to 124 days.

That means any property that went under offer from late November 2020 onwards, will likely struggle to complete in time to beat the stamp duty deadline on March 31.

Across the regions, average time to exchange contracts, once an offer has been made, has increased by 37% in Scotland (from 70 to 96 days) and 32% in the north east (from 87 to 115 days). In London, the average time to exchange has increased by 29%, from 97 to 125 days.

Movewise analysed estate agency data on almost 500,000 property sales across the UK where contracts were exchanged over the past 30 days (one month) and 180 days (six months).

1 February 2021

Right to Regenerate proposal to develop unused properties

The public will be able to convert vacant plots and derelict buildings into new homes or community spaces under proposals announced by Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick.

The new Right to Regenerate will require councils and the public sector to sell unused land and assets unless there are compelling reasons not to.

Under the proposals, public bodies will need to have clear plans for land in the near future, even if only a temporary use before later development. If the land is kept for too long without being used, they will be required to sell it.

The government argues that this will provide an opportunity for the public and local communities to redevelop and transform eyesores, taking control of unused local land or buildings and transforming them into something they want in their area. 

Unused publicly owned social housing and garages will also be open to redevelopment under the proposal.

The latest figures show there were more than 25,000 vacant council-owned homes and, according to recent FOI data, over 100,000 empty council-owned garages.

The Secretary of State will act as an arbiter “to ensure fairness and speedy outcomes in all cases,” Mr Jenrick said.

In practice the proposal could mean that someone with an unused plot at the back of their home owned by the council, could use the new Right to Regenerate. If the land was deemed to be underused with no plans to bring it into use, it would be sold and the person making the request would have first right of refusal to purchase – enabling them to extend their garden.

In 1980, Michael Heseltine introduced powers that form part of the current Right to Contest – giving the public the power to request the sale of underused land owned by public bodies in England. These powers were extended through the Community Right to Reclaim Land, in 2011.

However, since the 2014 creation of the Right to Contest, only 192 requests have been made and just one has been granted. Requests have usually been refused because the owner had future plans for the land, which meant some sites were left unused for years.

Consultation on the Right to Regenerate closes on 13  March.

20 January 2021

House builds up

The number of new homes under construction increased by 111% in the third quarter of 2020 to 35,710, according to official government statistics. A total of 45,000 homes were completed in the same period, representing a 185% increase on the previous quarter.

Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick MP said the figures show that the number of new home starts more than doubled compared to the previous quarter and the number of completed homes almost tripled.

14 Janaury 2021