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Addressing the housing shortage is not someone else’s problem

By Steve Larkin, director of development finance, LendInvest

Last September we launched our first LendInvest Property Development Academy. A year on, it’s fair to say that the response has been overwhelming.

We knew that there was a strong desire from many on the fringes of the property market to become developers in their own right, but nonetheless the sheer level of interest has been incredible and has led to us hosting academy sessions across the country.

One of the most satisfying things about the Property Development Academy from my perspective has been that it has highlighted just how many senior individuals and organisations are keen to play their part in helping boost housing development across the UK, and champion the work of the small developer.

Just this month, three major industry bodies threw their weight behind the skills initiative with public endorsements: The Centre for Entrepreneurs, Homes for Scotland and the Home Builders Federation (HBF).

HBF has been a partner in the academy from very early on, advising on course content and helping with the selection process of suitable candidates, while the launch of the academy in Scotland brought with it endorsement from not only Homes for Scotland but also Kevin Stewart MSP, the Scottish housing minister.

This isn’t about getting a pat on the back, though; it’s about acknowledging how many significant organisations are not only determined to see housebuilding levels improve but are willing to help make that happen.

For too long, the housebuilding crisis has been someone else’s problem. It’s been up to the big builders to get on with, or whichever ambitious politician has been handed the housing brief this week. And let’s be honest, that strategy has been an abject failure, lacking in direction and impetus.

No, if we are going to tackle the shortage of homes across the UK, we need to recognise that it is something we can all play a part in. So if the big builders on their own are unable to build the homes the nation needs, we must do more to cultivate a generation of smaller builders, taking on more modest but no less meaningful projects. A wider source of housing developers will inevitably mean more homes are built.

Equally, it’s a mistake to view this as a housing problem that can be solved only by housing people. Small builders are entrepreneurial by their very nature, and it’s important that we view them as such and ensure they receive appropriate guidance from people who have started their own business and know all the mistakes to avoid.

It’s daft that small builders are viewed as being somehow different from other SMEs. Yet our research earlier this year highlighted a host of different ways in which small builders were excluded from the sort of assistance open to their peers in other industries, a disparity that we believe strongly must be addressed.

But that playing field will be levelled only if voices are united in calling for it; if a sustained campaign is launched across a host of firms and organisations.

The Government clearly wants to do more to boost housing development across the nation but it can do that only if, as an industry, we come together to share our expertise and experience, to help guide the Government on exactly where and how it can make the biggest difference.

We have gone through so many housing ministers in the past couple of decades that it is simply unrealistic to expect them to arrive in the post with all the answers. It’s up to us to come together and help them make a meaningful difference, for no matter how long they end up in the brief.

The support that the Property Development Academy has received from those within and outside the industry is an important reminder that housing is an issue in which we are all stakeholders. By working together, we will tackle the housing shortage and deliver the homes that future generations so badly need.

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