New research from the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) suggests that SME housebuilders feel the skills shortage will continue to negatively impact housing delivery, eventually overtaking ‘access to finance’ as a bigger barrier to building new homes.
These key findings form part of the FMB House Builders’ Survey 2018 – the only annual assessment of small and medium sized house builders in England. In total, 44% of SME housebuilders said the shortage of skilled construction workers was a major barrier to building new homes – up from 42% the year previous. Lack of available land topped the list however (59%), with close to two-thirds of survey respondents (62%) claiming that opportunities for small site development were actually decreasing (up from 54% in 2017).
Predictably, almost half of all SME housebuilders surveyed (46%) identified access to finance as their biggest bugbear, while 51% viewed the planning system as a major constraint. For a third running ‘inadequate resourcing of planning departments’ was cited as the most significant cause of delay in the planning application process. Looking forward over the next three years, more firms cited the skills shortages as a likely barrier to growth than access to finance.
Brian Berry, Chief Executive of the FMB, commented: “Nearly half of builders believe the skills shortage is a major barrier to their ability to build new homes. The construction sector is heavily reliant on EU workers with just under one in ten workers in the sector born in the EU. Brexit, coupled with the end of free movement, threatens to further intensify the skills shortages we already face.
“Given that the UK will leave the EU in less than six months, house builders are understandably concerned that skills shortages could worsen and choke housing delivery. In order to combat this skills crisis, the construction industry needs to encourage more entrants into the industry and develop higher quality qualifications. It is critical therefore that the government doesn’t pull the rug out from under the sector by introducing an inflexible and unresponsive immigration system.”
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