The Conservative Party has pledged to kick-start a new era of council and housing association builds as part of its General Election manifesto – and the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) has called for SMEs to be central to the development of the policy.
The response comes as the Government released its manifesto and expanded upon its current target of building one million new homes by 2020 to 1.5 million homes by 2022.
The Government will also utilise its land, including derelict land, to build 160,000 homes. There will be a greater emphasis on building high quality homes with a higher density.
Sarah McMonagle, director of external affairs at the FMB, welcomed the Conservative Party’s acknowledgement of the scale of the housing crisis but warned these targets could only be achieved by enabling a greater mix of companies within the house building sector.
She said: “The decline in the number and output of smaller local house builders over the past few decades has led to the industry’s capacity haemorrhaging. To deliver the PM’s vision we will need to reverse this. The manifesto’s explicit pledge to diversify the delivery of new homes is therefore extremely welcome. Key to doing this will be being able to build on some of the sensible reforms outlined in the recent Housing White Paper, which we hope to see implemented.”
“The Conservative Party’s manifesto sets out an ambition not only to build more, but to build better. There is a welcome emphasis on balancing the pressure for increasing the delivery of new properties with the need to deliver those homes to a high standard. As is widely recognised, smaller scale house builders have a strong focus on quality. By supporting greater diversity in terms of the companies building our new homes, a Conservative Government would be killing two birds with one stone. This is a vision that SMEs can build on.”
Backing SMEs is a good move as the sector is a consistent contributor to the Exchequer. The rise of the ‘gig economy’ and the concerns of SMEs over recruitment, over-regulation and over-taxation have become a vocal part of the election mix and, according to figures from the Office for National Statistics, over the last decade the number of self-employed workers in the UK has surged from 3.8 million to nearly 4.7 million. The figure has risen by 174,000 in the last year alone with 15% of the entire UK workforce now self-employed.
The traditional High Street estate agent has been further empowered to take the fightback to the digital disruptors by a new suite of products from OneDome, the technology company behind discovery tool Locality Reality.
The product toolkit – basically a series of web apps – means an agency will enjoy digital capabilities superior to that of hybrid or pure online estate agents and offer a hybrid service as part of its current offering.
Three new digital toolkits for agency websites – ‘Discovery Pack’, ‘Vendor Pack’, and ‘Buyer Pack’ – give agents new ways to engage customers on their site using innovative online booking tools and a secure communications platform. The result is that any agent can now engage with current and potential customers 24/7 without the significant resources and financial outlay required to develop and maintain such technology.
The new estate agency products come after OneDome’s successful December launch of the ‘Locality Reality’ area search tool. Featured as a ‘Top Property App’ by both The Times and the Evening Standard, the site recorded almost a million page views in a very short period of time from consumers exploring the facets of any given postcode in England and Wales.
Babek Ismayil, founder and CEO of OneDome, said: “Consumer trends are changing at an ever-accelerating rate. A select few have exploited this and profited. The problem is that a lot of people have been left behind. We are here to make sure those people have technology that works for them, not against them. Technology should empower not disrupt, it should connect not displace, and it should be available to everyone.
“We created OneDome to assist consumers and property professionals in navigating the property acquisition process in the easiest way possible. We know from personal experience how unnecessarily stressful it can be. From start to completion, the process is frequently slow, arduous and totally lacking in the technological innovation that we’ve seen in other sectors and that consumers increasingly expect.
“Our aim is to become the leading online platform for property professionals. These web tools are just the first step to realising our vision. We will empower both agents and their customers, and transform the entire property experience.”