HBF Parliamentary Newsletter – Summer 2022

Mon 18 July, 2022


In this Parliamentary Newsletter, we update you on our work to progress the many ongoing and new challenges affecting the home building industry as well as our members’ work to sustain recent housing supply increases while tackling major business, regulatory and social change.

We hope you find it a useful update on the home building industry’s activities and priorities but if you have any questions or would like to discuss to an issue in more detail, please get in touch.

About HBF

The Home Builders Federation (HBF) is the representative body of the home building industry in England and Wales. Our members are responsible for providing around 80% of all new private homes built in England and Wales and most of our members are small or medium-sized enterprises.

New report finds Natural England significantly overestimates the impact of new housing development on nutrient pollution

HBF has produced a second report in partnership with Lichfields on the issue of nutrient neutrality. The first one, on the economic impact of under-delivery of housing, can be read here.

Nutrient neutrality is currently one of the biggest issues facing the home building industry following the ‘Dutch N’ court ruling. Due to Natural England’s advice to local authorities, new housing schemes across large parts of 74 local authorities are now having to demonstrate nutrient neutrality before building can commence or resume - the result being that an estimated 120,000 new homes are now delayed.

This latest report questions Natural England’s nutrient neutrality advice to local authorities which includes an assumption that each new home will increase the population in the catchment by 2.4 persons.

The analysis in this report shows that Natural England’s default assumption significantly overestimates the likely additional population that would result from the development of new housing. The amount of mitigation required from each new development is also subsequently significantly overestimated. The 2.4 person per dwelling assumption would indicate an annual increase in population that is over double the actual change in household population indicted by the official population and household projections – that is c.73,500 persons per annum compared to 35,250 person per annum. The critical reason for this is that calculators fail to acknowledge that most new housing caters for the existing population living in a catchment, not new people moving into the area.

The industry is keen to ensure that unnecessary barriers are not placed in the way of building new homes by demanding levels of mitigation that are not needed, especially when the contribution of new housing development to nitrate pollution is minimal (less than 4% can be attributed to residential development).

HBF is urging local authorities to amend the nutrient calculator to take account of evidence from the official household and populations projections of the net average household size in each area, rather than default to Natural England’s advice.

The report can be read in full here. HBF is working closely with the relevant departments to try to find a more proportionate solution to nutrient neutrality issues. If you would like to discuss anything related to nutrient neutrality in more detail, please contact HBF’s Director for Cities, James Stevens, james.stevens@hbf.co.uk

New social media campaign launched to tackle poor mental health in construction

Poor mental health can affect any one of us at any time. In fact, one in four of us will experience a mental health problem each year, regardless of our background. The home building industry is, of course, not immune to these challenges. On the contrary, the statistics for our sector make for sobering reading:

  • Two construction workers take their own lives every working day
  • 91% of construction workers have felt overwhelmed and 26% of workers have experienced suicidal thoughts
  • The risk of a male construction worker dying by suicide is three times above the national average

A significant part of the problem is the stigma that still exists around mental health and wellbeing discussions which deters people from seeking the help they need. HBF and its members have been working to raise awareness of the importance of good mental health following the launch of our campaign in 2019. However, a recent newspaper article, in which builders were denigrated for talking about their feelings and adopting a healthier lifestyle, shows that there is still considerable work to be done.

To this end, HBF is launching a new social media campaign, Laying the foundations for good mental health, to spread the message that it is okay not to be okay, conversation is key to breaking down the stigma and help is available for those who need it.

In order to reach as many construction workers in your constituency as possible, we would be grateful if you would consider posting the following tweets on your Twitter page:

  • I’m pleased to help @HomeBuildersFed break down the stigma of mental health by supporting its ‘Laying the foundations for good mental health’ campaign #mentalhealth #mentalhealthawareness (1/4)
  • Did you know that two construction workers take their own lives every working day? Or that 9/10 people fear they will face stigma or discrimination if they speak out about their mental health? This needs to change (2/4)
  • Sharing feelings and concerns with those around is a key foundation for good mental health. So, let’s start talking (3/4)
  • For any construction worker in need of help, please contact the @LighthouseClub_ 24/7 Construction Industry Helpline on 0345 605 1956. It’s free, confidential and provides support on a range of issues. Help can also be received over text by messaging HARDHAT to 85258 (4/4)

Thank you in advance for your support and we hope that by working together we can take a further step forward in eliminating the stigma around mental health. Please don’t hesitate to contact emma.ramell@hbf.co.uk if you would like to discuss our work in this area in more detail.

New Homes Quality Board to launch New Homes Ombudsman in the Autumn

October will see the launch of an independent New Homes Ombudsman Service in Great Britain. This is the culmination of some six years work, now being led by the New Homes Quality Board. Whilst the new arrangements will prove a considerable challenge to industry, HBF continues to be fully supportive of the proposals and is encouraging its members to work with the NHQB.

The framework being brought forward by the NHQB will see the introduction of a new industry consumer code – The New Homes Quality Code – that puts significantly more demands on builders including with regards to the information provided to customers and in particular, how they deal with any complaints or issues customers have post occupation.

The application by The Dispute Service to operate a New Homes Ombudsman Service (NHOS) was approved by the Ombudsman Association (OA) earlier in the year following a rigorous validation process.

The OA process made the applicant meet a detailed set of requirements around independence, fairness, effectiveness, openness, and accountability. Following the approval, The NHQB has contracted with The Dispute Service and the final preparations are being made to enable the NHOS to go live in the autumn.

The NHQB has been starting to register builders since the spring. The majority of the country’s largest builders are now registered with SME’s now registering too. HBF is working with the NHQB to ready its members large and small.

Once registered, builders receive training and support collateral from the NHQB to enable them to make the necessary changes to be able to comply with the new requirements. When they are ready, builders then ‘activate’, after which all their customers reserving a new build home are protected by the requirements of the new code and have free access to the independent ombudsman service.

The first companies will ‘go live’ in October after which more builders will activate on a monthly basis. It is expected that the majority of new build buyers will be protected by the new arrangements by early next year.

In April, Natalie Elphicke, who had led on the establishment of the NHQB, and its proposals stood down as Chair and, in her place, the NHQB appointed Rob Brighouse who has a long career background in the rail sector. Alongside him, Leon Livermore, formely CEO of Trading Standards has been appointed as the new CEO and he will lead the team through this exciting period in the NHQB’s evolution.

A parliamentary launch event is planned by the NHQB in Westminster on November 1 and there will be similar events in Cardiff and Edinburgh in the autumn. MPs will be receiving invitations to the relevant events in the coming weeks.

More on the work of the NHQB and NHOS can be read here.

Homebuilders celebrate Pride Month

In celebration of Pride Month throughout June, HBF and its members participated in a range of activities to showcase homebuilders’ commitment to improving the diversity, inclusion and representation of the industry.

Home builders are fully aware of the importance, and benefits, of establishing a more diverse workforce, particularly in the drive to increase housing delivery to 300,000 homes per year. Achieving this will require an extensive and varied mix of skills and so it is pivotal we continue to attract and develop a broad range of talent within the industry.

As part of Pride Month, home builders highlighted several of the specific measures they have initiated to improve LGBT+ representation, including:

  • Being part of the London Pride parade
  • Setting up internal diversity and inclusion groups
  • Displaying pride flags on building sites
  • Supporting employees through the adoption process

Further information on each of these initiatives, including case studies, can be found here.