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Mon December 06 2021

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Land, labour and lumber: local house-builders stymied by shortages

20 Oct Research funded by the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) shows that the availability of land is the biggest of several obstacles facing small local house-builders.

The FMB’s 2021 House Builders’ Survey, which focuses on small and medium-sized (SME) house-builders in England, suggests a high level of anxiety among building firms. There is no shortage of demand for their services but the impediments are substantial.

63% of small builders say they are limited in their ability to build homes by a lack of available and viable land.

62% say they are struggling with material shortages. There have been widespread reports this year of supplies of basic materials including timber, bricks and cement being disupted.

61% say that they feel 'held back' by the planning system.

And 53% say that cannot find the workers they need.

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The annual survey, now in its 10th year, also indicates that buyer demand is at a survey high. Builders report that demand for new homes is booming. But such is the dominance of the national majors, only 12% of new housing is delivered by small builders these days, compared with 40% in the 1980s.

FMB chief executive Brian Berry said: “Demand for new homes is soaring, but the decline of the small house-builder has hit the capacity, competitiveness and diversity of the house-building industry, and is slowing down delivery. We will fail to deliver, sustainably, 300,000 homes a year unless we take action to reverse this trend.”

He continued: “Builders can’t build if they don’t have the land, and the FMB House Builders’ Survey 2021 sends a clear message. With 71% of small builders reporting the number of small site opportunities is decreasing, and only 19% feeling a high level of certainty over the outcome of planning applications, these constraints are proving stubborn to shift.”

He added: “It is not all gloom, however. Improvements in access to finance are welcome, and recent government commitments to expand access to the self and custom build market will give small builders a boost.”

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