Principal Thoughts: The housing crisis needs more than new homes to plug the gap

Posted on: 9 October, 2017

Could long term investment in Built Environment education help answer the need for quality housing?

Welcome to the latest edition of Ashley Wheaton’s ‘Principal Thoughts’. This time, Ashley looks at the worsening housing crisis and discusses whether further investment in combined working and studying within the sector – such as apprenticeships – could help solve the problem.  

Britain is currently facing its worst housing crisis for decades. There has been a catastrophic decline in both houses and home ownership. Real house prices have jumped 151 per cent since 1996, while real earnings have risen only about a quarter as much. Meanwhile, the Government has pledged to boost house-building by 200,000 homes a year but at least 240,000 new homes per year are necessary to fix the current shortage.

There are many barriers to new home construction in 2017, especially for affordable housing, such as finance and the availability of viable land. However, the recent House Builders’ Survey September 2017, from the Federation of Master Builders, has indicated that a lack of skilled workers is viewed as an obstacle by 42 per cent of the industry.

Brian Berry, Chief Executive of the Federation of Master Builders, commented to Today’s Conveyancer, “Over the next three years, half of SME house builders believe skills shortages will act as a major constraint on their ability to grow and this concern is now beginning to overtake more typical frustrations such as the planning system.

However, it’s important to note here that as well as increasing the supply of housing, focusing on the quality of housing is just as vital. Today, house-building is often focused on speed, and achieving targets. There’s a real danger that in the rush to build a substantial number of new homes due to a chronic shortage, that there could be large numbers of lower quality housing estates created which may fail to create communities and may even need to be rebuilt before the end of the century.

As well as the need for skilled workers, we also need an influx of visionary and forward thinking minds in the sector; enabling the delivery of high quality architecture and desirable places for people to live, work and play.

So, what can be done?

Long-term investment in allowing people to study and work simultaneously will be one key way of developing the Built Environment sector and solving the housing crisis.

Ongoing and flexible vocational education can improve individuals loyalty and commitment to the sector; whereas after three years at university, graduates often leave their selected field in the rush to find employment anywhere – and pay off their large debts. More critically, it also encourages better applied learning and can help improve commercial success. Individuals have up-to-date and relevant skills – as well as developing an understanding of what is needed to advance the Built Environment in the best way.

For example, today’s apprenticeship programmes aren’t generic, they’re specifically designed to complement the on-the-job work and are tailored to work for the business as well as the individual. These students end up leaving education with vital industry experience – putting them years ahead of their peers – and enabling them able to make a difference in the sector straight away.

This is the only way to ensure highly skilled talent continues to enter and remain in all areas of the sector quickly and continuously – and not only helps to solve the housing deficit but future-proofs our Built Environment. It’s time to build a legacy for Britain and make our homes great again.

At UCEM, we are committed to excellence in our teaching and in providing strong employability outcomes for all students; our programmes enable individuals and businesses to increase professionalism and contribute to a better Built Environment sector. We deliver accredited apprenticeship programmes at both level 3 (A-level equivalent) and level 6 (degree level) as well as undergraduate and postgraduate degrees.

For more information, take a look at the programmes on offer. And make sure you’re following us on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.