Look back through 2020 with LABC Warranty, a year that has challenged the housebuilding sector like no other…
For January to June 2020, click to read Part 1.
The government heeded the call of the sector and gave home builders a boost by announcing a stamp duty holiday. With the Grenfell Tower inquiry returning too, the government pressed ahead with its building safety agenda and published a draft safety bill. The bill picked up on many of the points included in the Hackitt Review – we summarised the bill in a blog post.
There was big news too for LABC Warranty, in the form of backing from a new insurer. Despite the challenging market, HSB joined our A-rated insurer panel. Part of the global HSB Group, HSB specialises in construction and equipment breakdown cover in the UK, including experience in Latent Defects and Machinery Inherent Defects insurance. They were a perfect fit for us!
The traditional ‘quiet’ August didn’t really happen this year, with the sector busy making up for lost time. Talk of a ‘second wave’ of the virus was still only that, despite headline-making images of packed beaches and town centre revellers not adhering to social distancing guidance.
Under the grand title Planning for the Future, the government published proposals to reform the planning system. Controversially, the consultation included measures that would effectively move public consultation on planning applications from the application stage to the ‘local plan’ stage through a new ‘zonal permitted development’ approach to planning.
LABC Warranty was looking ahead to the future, too, when it signed a memorandum of understanding committing us to technical collaboration and sharing of knowledge of assessment methodology for homes built using modern methods of construction (MMC).
With a new round of funding announced for affordable homes, the government also announced its next Help to Buy programme (the existing round would expire in March 21). Developers weren’t given a lot of time to register their interest, so they needed to be on their toes.
With the virus starting to re-emerge, the government resisted calls from some quarters for a second, ‘short, sharp’ lockdown. Instead, a tiered system was introduced where areas of higher infection rates faced the toughest restrictions.
While work could continue in most cases, nerves were increasing. LABC Warranty started to see a surge in the number of quotation requests as developers began to wonder if another break in business was on the cards.
The virus was back on the march and by the end of the month another month-long lockdown had been announced for England (Wales had already enacted a 17-day ‘firebreak’). Unlike the first lockdown, work could carry on in the construction sector subject to the now-standard guidance. Crucially, house sales could continue too.
We reported on new self-build data that showed a growing number of younger people taking an interest in building their own home – or having a custom-built home at least. The number of people applying for a self-build warranty through us continues to grow year-on-year, suggesting perhaps that it’s a growing trend here to stay.
Elsewhere, government was facing criticism that its algorithm designed to determine housing need was flawed and would continue to favour the south of the country.
The second lockdown had lesser impact on the housebuilding sector compared to the first. In fact, LABC Warranty reported robust trading for the first three quarters of 2020 despite all the challenges the industry faced.
Given the hectic news agenda, little fanfare greeted the government publishing its long-awaited social housing white paper. There was scant new detail on the provision of new affordable housing, with the focus very much on residents’ rights and standards expected of registered landlords.
Builders and developers were given their chance to have a say on a consultation to extend permitted development rights. Despite controversy over some office-to-residential conversions that critics claimed had allowed developers to create ‘sub-standard’ homes, the government wanted to bring restaurants, cafes, sports and leisure venues in England into the permitted development family. The extension was a natural follow-on from reclassification of business uses introduced in September.
Recognising that the new housing need formula announced earlier in the summer didn’t stack up for the North of England, the Government announced a revision to its so-called ‘80/20’ rule.
Another natural follow-on ended the year – Brexit. At the time of writing…well, let’s just say we might as well as repeat the words of January’s IHS Markit/CIPS UK Construction PMI report:
“…clarity on Brexit could deliver a much-needed boost to clients' willingness-to-spend.”
And we end on some breaking news: there is a trade deal!
- For January to June 2020, click to read Part 1.