Today’s budget statement focused on construction, with an ambition to see a further 200,000 new homes being built.
But behind this number it seems there is a disenchantment with the volume house building firms. We see new money for Right to Build, to encourage public bodies to sell land at a market rate to self-builders. We also see a new fund to encourage more activity by SME builder-developers.
After all, Ebbsfleet in Kent is essentially the public sector giving a stutteringly slow rate of private sector house building a kick in the pants, to be blunt.
It has been noted that, on the European Continent, it is commonplace for people to directly pay a builder to create their bespoke house. Less understood is that a lot of these new homes are essentially chosen out of a catalogue, then delivered to site in modules direct from factories, and assembled to very high standards in just a few days by trained teams from the same factory. There was a rare example of this shown in the UK some years ago on the Grand Designs TV programme, where the new home and team came on lorries from Germany.
Frankly, until we get comfortable with offsite manufacturing of modules and panels, and with integrated manufacturing and assembling, then self-builders, or rather self-developers, in the UK will remain a minority hobby. The first firm to achieve this at scale will boost UK manufacturing as well as construction, and the first conurbation to assemble this new economic cluster will steal a march on others areas.