UKAA response to the Competition and Markets Authority’s housebuilding market study in England, Scotland, and Wales

Stop trying to patch up the planning system – invest in and simplify it to deliver homes with customers at the core

Brendan Geraghty, CEO of the UKAA, the membership association and representative body for the Build to Rent (BTR) sector, incorporating urban and suburban BTR, comments on the Competition and Markets Authority’s housebuilding market study in England, Scotland, and Wales, published 26 February 2024.

“The Competition and Markets Authority’s call for “significant intervention” in housebuilding in Great Britain is well-founded, but this call for action should not be restricted to the new build homes for sale market. We need to provide allforms of housing tenure to meet demand, from new build homes for sale to social housing and private rented sector homes including Build to Rent (BTR) schemes.

“As reported by Savills, BTR delivery passed the 100,000 completed homes milestone in 2023 and is fulfilling an increasingly important role as a contributor to housing provision in the UK. Based on existing tenure distributions, if the government is to hit its target of 300,000 new homes per year, Savills calculates that 60,000 of those homes need to be in the private rental sector.

“An efficient, fit-for-purpose planning system is key to enabling this delivery of homes. The planning system has to provide protections, set standards and promote development for multiple (and often competing) stakeholders. Yet the current level of resourcing and inefficiencies in the system result in applications being prolonged or denied. Fair and reasonable scrutiny of development proposals is essential but so are the efficiency, certainty and proactive delivery required to underpin a housing market that is fit for both our current society and future generations. It’s time to stop trying to patch the holes in the current system and instead invest heavily and simplify it, with end customers – the UK’s homeowners and renters – at the core of that process.

“Customer-centric services are at the heart of the Build to Rent sector’s work. BTR schemes are designed and built with the customer experience in mind. The soon-to-be-published new Build to Rent Code of Practice, delivered by the UKAA and developed with the input of urban and suburban BTR providers across the UK, will add further weight to this customer-centric approach.

“By keeping renters and housing quality in mind during planning process reforms, we can ensure that all those building new homes – whether for sale, social or private rent – can do so in a timely, efficient, and cost-effective manner. Doing so would be a far cry from the current planning process, which the Competition and Markets Authority report makes clear is a contributor to higher housing costs through the constraints it places on housebuilding.

“With a streamlined planning process in place, the BTR sector can play an even greater role in building housing at scale for the UK’s renters. Appetite from investors is strong; the UK BTR sector saw a record £4.5 billion of investment in 2023, according to Savills. And with the ability to build much-needed, customer-focused housing at pace, the sector’s potential is huge. BTR can make a significant contribution in both urban and suburban areas, serving as an anchor tenant for regeneration and fulfilling a key community creation role. It can also deliver a range of tenures to suit long-term housing needs – apartments, single-family houses, co-living schemes and later living communities can all fit within the BTR umbrella.

“The CMA report has highlighted key failings for the customer in the current planning system and wider UK housebuilding market. It’s time to put things right.”