Some of Britain’s top property experts say bureaucracy, lack of cooperation and a dwindling number of smaller builders are the main reasons why building targets for new homes appear never to be met.
Industry experts assembled at an event held by the British Property Federation this week included representatives from Close Brothers Property Finance – the firm that handles credit agreements involving Purplebricks’ customers – plus the BPF itself, the Homes England quango and social housing operator Notting Hill Genesis.
Ideas put forward by the panel to galvanise the housing sector included root and branch reform of the compulsory purchase system, additional government funding for housing associations, wider cooperation between different parts of the housing market and more effective harnessing of the expertise in the industry.
“The housing sector has to deliver and all sectors must collaborate to address the critical blockages that remain in the process. Progress can only be made through frank and open-forum discussions like these” claims Kim Vernau, chief executive of BLP Insurance, which sponsored the event.
“It’s vital to continue to debate the issues that affect the housing sector and its ability to deliver on government’s targets. This event provided the ideal opportunity to get the perspective from many sectors of the housing market, from financers to housing associations to government, on what is working well and what needs to be changed.”
Meanwhile a quite different organisation has come up with an idea to at least dent the housing problem in London – allow empty commercial properties to be used as temporary homes.
The number of empty commercial properties in London’s zones 1 to 3 has reached more than 10,000 according to new figures from a group called Live-in Guardians.
The company carried out research among London councils and says the as many authorities didn’t know their empty property figures, the 10,666 it has recorded may be an under-estimate.
Arthur Duke, a former commercial lawyer now heading Live-In Guardians, says the government creates increasing volumes of red tape for companies like his, despite so many buildings being unused – the latest example is more onerous HMO (House in Multiple Occupation) legislation later this year.
Duke says his figures reveal the worst offenders – the City of London with 3,409 empty buildings; Hammersmith & Fulham with 1,288 empty buildings and Ealing with 1,147 vacant commercial properties.
“This is a reflection of extortionate property prices coupled with ferociously high business rates that push companies further away from the centre of town to the suburbs. Many of the buildings from our research include office buildings, retail premises, police stations, warehouses and factory buildings. We also have former law courts, restaurants, a former go-karting track and even a few banks” he claims.