The annual Housing Market Intelligence Conference took place on 3 October 2012 and Speechly Bircham was proud to be one of the Conference sponsors, alongside the Home Builders Federation and the NHBC.

Over 250 delegates attended the Conference representing the majority of the UK house builders together with housing associations and Local Government. The Conference, Chaired by Stewart Baseley, Executive Chairman of the Home Builders Federation, introduced a number of high-profile speakers with Pete Redfern, CEO of Taylor Wimpey, presenting the key note speech - an interesting review of the progress and challenges faced by Taylor Wimpey in the five previous years and looking forward to 2017.

The Conference was entitled ‘Delivering the Government’s Housing Strategy’ and Pete Redfern quite rightly called on the Government to ensure that it actually had a clear strategy, and as he put it, “not a long list of initiatives”. The announcements made by all three major parties during their respective conferences concerning the importance of house building underlines the good intentions but the concern is, are there clear policies that will be implemented?

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The challenges facing the economy and house builders in particular were, of course, at the forefront of the contributions from the other presentations, including Richard Werth, CEO of Banner Homes speaking for medium sized house builders, together with Stephen Noakes on behalf of Lloyds Bank and Bob Pannell on behalf of the Council of Mortgage Lenders.

Key comments and statistics from the Conference included:

  1. Mortgage Lending

Mortgage lending is the key to recovery and the lack of mortgages is the main issue. CML’s statistics suggest a slow increase in lending from the current level of £35bn per annum rising to £57bn in 2014; £75bn in 2015; £92bn in 2016 and, ending the current forecast period at £108bn in 2017. So it looks like a subdued recovery, albeit with significant challenges along the way.

  1. The Planning System

Andrew Whittaker of HBF gave an amusing review of Localism. A common theme throughout the industry is the lack of coherent progress in relation to the implementation of the NPPF. As Andrew Whittaker pointed out, the people who do not want something to change are frequently those who are the most well off in society and also those most vocal in many communities. Accordingly, the “Big Society” in planning terms is often dominated by a small minority.

Allied to the question of implementation of policy is the continuing burden of Section 106 Contributions and CIL on new development. All commentators agree that community engagement is essential to all development but the level of cost burden on house builders and developers continues to be disproportionate.

  1. What for the future?

The challenges are well-known and statistics quoted as regards the average age of the first time buyer now approaching 40 is a sobering reminder that without purchasers the market cannot grow. Alternatives, such as the private rented sector were the subject of discussion but in terms of schemes viability this continues to be problematic. It is interesting to note that in a stirring and robust presentation Sir John Banham, who will chair the Future Homes Commission, suggest that yields of ten per cent may be possible - Stewart Baseley noted this with some interest and wondered how it could be achieved - we shall see!