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Housing issues debated at Conservative Party Fringe

In the final of their joint fringe events, NHBC and the HBF today debated some of the biggest issues in housing, at the Conservative Party conference.

The panel was chaired by Alex Thomson, Chief Executive at Localis, and included: John Howell, MP for Henley; Neil Jefferson, Director at NHBC; Stewart Baseley, HBF Executive Chairman; and Mark Clare, Chief Executive of Barratts Homes, as well as Minister for Planning Nick Boles MP.

Highlighting that housebuilding levels are not changing month-on-month, the panel felt Government plans for housing aren't yet having an impact. One of the key issues was the question of how to help small and medium-sized house building firms after a prolonged period of no growth, which can cause a skills dearth as professionals leave the sector, or return after long periods out of work.

The type of homes being built was also on the agenda, as it was felt that some homeowners or tenants are living in accommodation that doesn't meet their needs. The types of homes being built are changing as NHBC reports: the construction of new flats, once the mainstay of the market, has dropped to just 20% in the last decade.

Speaking from the audience, ex-MP Edwina Currie asked when the housing needs of older people would be tackled. The panel felt some councils were ignoring their duty to plan for older housing, and that the Community Infrastructures Levy could spell bad news in terms of homes for older people; the CIL is calculated by floor space but shelter housing has large amounts of communal space.

Neil Jefferson said: "Today's event gave an insight to some very pertinent issues facing the housing sector, and government. While simply getting the market back on its feet is clearly a priority, it is also important that the homes being built today and into the future meet the needs of their occupants.

"NHBC is contributing to policy development and through the NHBC Foundation, we conduct research into best practice home building. In particular, the Government has a commitment to the housing industry on producing a zero carbon definition and we await their final announcement on this.

"We are doing our bit to help get things moving, but the coming months will be vital in seeing whether the wide variety of measures intended to do just that, will be effective. Certainly when it comes to new builds, there is scope to deliver more."

News Date: 08/10/12