Timber can help the UK fix its housing crisis but more investments are needed
Last month Iain McIlwee, CTI Director and CEO of the British Woodworking Federation (BWF), was asked to attend a small round table event focussed on the build-out rate for housing hosted by Sir Oliver Letwin MP.
At Budget, government announced its intention to set up an independent review to look into the gap between completions and the number of homes allocated or permissioned. This panel is being chaired by Sir Oliver Letwin.
The Review aims to:
- explain the significant gap between housing completions and the amount of land allocated or permissioned in areas of high housing demand and make recommendations for closing it.
- identify the principal causes of the gap
- identify practical steps that could increase the speed of build out. These steps should support an increase in housing supply consistent with a stable housing market in the short term and so that over the long-term, house prices rise slower than earnings.
- provide an interim report to the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government in time for Spring Statement 2018 and a full report for Budget 2018
As part of his review, Sir Oliver invited key representatives of the building products sector, the relationship between building product manufacturers and housebuilders, and capacity in the sector.
The meeting touched several issues affecting the Timber Supply Chains. Key points included:
- The timber frame industry could scale up capacity of existing factories. More investment is going into UK forestry.
- Brexit could be an issue for timber imports, although more investment is going into UK forestry.
- Brexit could affect imported materials. If no mutually beneficial UK-EU customs’ agreement is struck, British businesses face paying 20% extra upfront as VAT on imports like timber & bricks. This has immediate implications for operating costs and cashflow for importers, merchants & manufacturers.
Commenting after the meeting, Iain McIlwee stated: "I thought it was an encouraging meeting, firstly it reinforced Government remain committed to building housing supply to 300,000 units per year. "
"There was real consistency in the views of the supply chain too, in that any capacity issues are speed bumps rather than barriers. Product supply will never be a barrier to growth as long as the process is tidied to ensure consent and commitment are linked, procurement practices are improved and manufacturers are given confidence to invest."
"We also need to guarantee that more is done by private and public sectors to ensure that investing in quality won’t be undermined by value engineering without regard for the whole life cost of the project."
A brief summary of the meeting is available on the BWF website.