Prime Minister Boris Johnson has pledged to boost housebuilding in a speech designed to set out his plans to tackle the cost-of-living crisis. Construction News reports that Johnson announced the measures in a speech in Blackpool, aimed at attempting to boost the economy, amidst predictions of an economic downturn and even a recession by next year.

According to The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development thinktank, the UK will experience the worst rate of economic growth of all the developed G7 nations next year. As the war in Ukraine drags on with no sign of a diplomatic breakthrough in sight, the price of petrol has soared to over 180p per litre.

In addition to the pledge to boost housebuilding, Johnson also promised help for all households with soaring energy bills, and extra help for those in need for food and childcare. The Help to Buy scheme is also being expanded to include Housing Association tenants as well as council tenants.

Johnson said: “Just three in 10 millennials in the UK own their own home, compared with four in 10 in France. Partly, this is a function of supply. When Labour left office, they famously remarked that there was no money left – they had also failed to build homes at the rate that was necessary.”

“Since 1970, France has built 16.7m homes. We’ve built 8.9m, while our population has grown by more than 12m. We are going to put more publicly-owned brownfield land to use and seek to unlock small sites that are ideal for the kind of unobtrusive development that communities welcome, with priority for first-time buyers and key workers.”

He added: “We are supporting self-build and custom-build homes. And we will sensitively make use of existing planning rights; for example, by making it easier to turn disused agricultural buildings into homes for local first-time buyers.”

The pledge to increase housebuilding may help to assuage concerns among industry leaders about the slowing rates of residential construction. Data for May showed that growth was at its weakest point for two years, based on the Managers Index PMI. The slowdown is being blamed on higher borrowing costs and rising inflation, Construction Buzz reports.

Commercial building continued to grow strongly however, despite looming uncertainty about the economic outlook. Major infrastructure projects, such as the HS2 rail line, continue to boost the civil engineering sector. New orders in May expanded slightly, although they did not match previous rates of growth.

Meanwhile, job creation increased during May, with many companies reporting continuing problems with recruiting enough skilled workers to fill vacant positions. Demand for construction materials and products remained strong, as rising prices are encouraging purchasing managers to stock up early.

The resilience of the civil engineering and commercial sectors is to be welcomed, but the residential sector has been described as close to stagnant. This has been put down to reduced demand and lower consumer confidence levels. When questioned, 19% of construction firms expected a decline in business activity during the next year.

Mark Robinson, CEO of public sector project management company SCAPE said: “The ongoing conflict in Ukraine continues to place pressure on material prices across the supply chain and labour shortages remain problematic. Looking ahead, further interest rate rises could start to curb the appetite for private developers in some sectors like residential.”

“It’s vital that we sustain the momentum and goodwill built up during recent months as the reality of price increases continues to take centre stage.”

He added: “Ensuring the pipeline of community-led regenerative construction remains strong will require first-class project management and client engagement to encourage the public sector to press on with the delivery of projects during the challenging times ahead.”

As part of his speech in Blackpool, Boris Johnson suggested that the recently opened Crossrail line in London would lead to more homes being built across London. Recently, there have been reports of sharply rising house prices and monthly rental charges at locations near to the new Crossrail stations.

For example, in Farringdon, the average rent in the EC1 postcode areas has jumped by 36% year on year. The W1 postcode, where the Tottenham Court Road and Bond Street Crossrail Stations are situated, has seen an increase of 33%. Meanwhile, Forest Gate, Liverpool Street, Paddington, and Whitechapel have all seen substantial increases.

Johnson added that a further £650 million was being invested in infrastructure, skills, and technology, which he explained was part of joined up approach to ensure homes were built where they were actually needed.

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