Industry Intel

January: Property industry news headline round-up

Tina Ledger

Graphic Designer

Jul 25, 2022

The first month of January has been busy – the UK brought in the New Year by leaving the EU, which is already having an effect on the construction industry’s workforce. Government and non-profit agencies are still attempting to combat the housing crisis with new building plans.

The most recent lockdown has been extended indefinitely, with many businesses remaining closed. Rishi Sunak has announced an additional £4.6 billion in funding to help businesses that were unable to reopen.

Many green projects have been announced, with Oxford City Council announcing an air pollution budget and new building targets announced to help the UK hit its target of being carbon neutral by 2050.

Bishop Appointed to Help With Housing Crisis

Dr Guli Francis-Dehqani, the next Bishop of Chelmsford, will sit in the House of Lords and advocate on issues of housing justice. This precedes the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Commission on Housing, Church and Community report.

This report was set up in the aftermath of Grenfell tower in which the church, a large landowner could help “tackle housing inequality and increase the amount of social housing across the UK”.

Francis-Dehqani, who has been the Bishop of Loughborough since 2017, will take up the new role later this year when she becomes Bishop of Chelmsford. Some of the projects the church are considering are a community land trust scheme for 40 homes on Cable Street, east London, designed by Levitt Bernstein and a plan by St John’s Hoxton to build affordable flats on its own land.

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New Regulator Announced to Ensure Construction Materials Are Safe

Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick has announced that a new national regulator will make sure that the materials used to build homes are safer. This happened following testimony from the Grenfell Inquiry that found that some manufacturers of construction products rigged safety tests.

The regulator for construction products will have the power to remove any product from the market that presents a significant safety risk and prosecute any companies who flout the rules on product safety.

The regulator will operate within the Office for Product Safety and Standards (OPSS) which will be expanded and given up to £10 million in funding to establish the new function. It will work with the Building Safety Regulator and Trading Standards to encourage and enforce compliance.

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New Targets Announced for Green Building Revolution

Housing Minister Chris Pincher has announced that all homes and businesses will have to meet rigorous new energy efficiency standards. This is designed to protect the environment and lower energy consumption. This is part of a wider government plan to become carbon neutral by 2050.

Responding to a consultation on the Future Homes Standard, the government has set out plans to radically improve the energy performance of new homes, with all homes to be highly energy efficient, with low carbon heating and be zero carbon ready by 2025.

These homes are expected to produce 75-80% lower carbon emissions compared to current levels. To ensure industry is ready to meet the new standards by 2025, new homes will be expected to produce 31% lower carbon emissions from 2021.

Existing homes will also be subject to higher standards – with a significant improvement on the standard for extensions, making homes warmer and reducing bills. The requirement for replacement, repairs and parts to be more energy efficient. This includes the replacement of windows and building services such as heat pumps, cooling systems, or fixed lighting.

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Extra Support to House Rough Sleepers and Ban on Bailiff Enforced Evictions Extended

An additional £10 million in funding has been announced to help all councils in England redouble their efforts to help accommodate all those currently sleeping rough and ensure they are registered with a GP, where they are not already. This move is designed to make the vaccine more accessible.

This £10 million investment builds on more than £700 million government spending on homelessness and rough sleeping this year alone.

New regulations have been announced to protect renters, with an extension to the ban on bailiff evictions for all but the most extreme cases for at least 6 weeks – until at least 21 February – with measures kept under review. Landlords continue to be required to give 6-month notice periods to tenants until at least 31 March except in the most serious circumstances.

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Fifteen Local Authorities Have Joined a New Network to Help Tackle Homelessness

The What Works Community, created by the Centre for Homelessness Impact, has been set up to support local areas to improve their response to homelessness issues using robust evidence and data.

Five councils will take part in the Evidence Accelerator arm of the programme and will receive expert guidance on how best to decrease the use of temporary accommodation in their local area. The other 11 councils have joined the Evidence Academy to achieve a broad understanding of knowledge about data and evidence in the field of homelessness.

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New “Right to Regenerate” Unused Land Announced

The public will be able to convert vacant plots of land and derelict buildings into new homes or community spaces under the Government’s ‘Right to Regenerate’ proposals, according to the housing secretary Robert Jenrick.

Under the proposals, underused public land could be sold to individuals or communities by default, unless there is a compelling reason the public body should hold onto it.

Councils and public organisations would need to have clear plans for land in the near future, even if only a temporary use. If the land is kept for too long without being used, they would be required to sell it.

The latest figures show there were over 25,000 vacant council owned homes and according to recent FOI data over 100,000 empty council-owned garages last year.

Responding to the proposals, Tom Chance, chief executive of the National Community Land Trust Network, commented: ‘We welcome these plans that could help communities to turn abandoned and neglected land and buildings into fantastic community assets.

‘There are hundreds of community land trusts across the country wanting to build much needed affordable housing, but getting hold of land at an affordable price is a huge barrier.

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Oxford City Council Approves Air-pollution Budget

The council has approved its Air Quality Action Plan 2021-2025, which sets out a list of 30 actions to protect residents from harmful air pollution.

The plan includes delivering Oxford’s Zero Emission Zone (ZEZ) and Connecting Oxford – two major schemes to tackle road traffic emissions.

Cllr Tom Hayes, deputy leader and cabinet member for green transport and zero carbon Oxford said: ‘By setting a new Air Quality Action Plan, and a city-wide air pollution reduction target, we go further and faster than the Government’s national legal target, and we’ll be the first council to do so with an Air Quality Action Plan. We want to race to our nitrogen oxide target of “30 by 25”.

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£830 Million Investment Into the High Street Announced

The Government has announced that millions of pounds of funding will be invested in 72 areas across England as part of the effort to help high streets recover from the impact of the pandemic.

Communities secretary Robert Jenrick said over the Christmas period that up to £830m from the Future High Streets Fund will go towards delivering local projects such as improvements to transport infrastructure, new homes and the transformation of underused spaces.

Birkenhead, one of the confirmed places set to benefit from the funding, will receive £24.6m to support the delivery of 186 new homes, road safety improvements and a permanent new space for a historic market.

Around £18m will also go to boost Worcester town centre by renovating the Scala Theatre (pictured) and Corn Exchange, delivering new homes and improving connectivity.

Swindon will get £25m to modernise its town centre, including a new public transport hub and improved cycle and pedestrian routes.

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Businesses to Receive One-off Grant Worth £9000 to Help During COVID

This £4.6 billion grant will help businesses in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors in England are to receive a one-off grant worth up to £9,000 to support them during the lockdown, chancellor Rishi Sunak has announced.

A further £594m is also being made available for local authorities and the devolved administrations to support other businesses not eligible for the grants, that might be affected by the restrictions.

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Construction Industry Loses 25% of EU-Born Workforce

The number of European Union-born workers in the UK construction industry dropped by more than a quarter in 12 months.

In the third quarter of 2020, there were 127,000 EU-born workers in the industry, down from 176,000 recorded in the same period in 2019. The 28 per cent drop was greater than the 7 per cent fall in total employment in construction, according to data collected by the Construction Products Association.

Monika Slowikowska, director of London-based residential contractor Golden Houses, stated that her staff numbers have dropped from 160 to 68 since January 2020 as people have left the country.

She said some of her workers were intent on leaving the UK in 2020 before the end of the Brexit transition period, although the onset of the pandemic in March accelerated the process. A common concern was that people would be ‘double-taxed’ – once in Britain, and once in their native country.

Read more here.

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Graphic Designer

Tina Ledger

Being such a people person makes Tina exceptionally good at her job. She not only can relate to most people in one way or another, but she also genuinely enjoys hearing about other people’s experiences. Couple that with her creativity, resilience and ability to flourish under pressure, and you’ve got yourself a cracking Graphic Designer.

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