Week commencing 4 February 2019

In today's bulletin

• NAO issues warning on housing targets
• Consultation on new light rail schemes launched

• Net zero carbon buildings consultation launched
• UK construction output tempers in January

Property, Planning and Regeneration

NAO issues warning on housing targets

The Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government (MHCLG) needs to up its game to meet its target of 300,000 new homes a year by the mid-2020s, the National Audit Office (NAO) has warned in a report published on 8 February.
Planning for new homes argues that the Government’s ambition to deliver these homes is hamstrung by a lack of resources and expertise in local authorities and the Planning Inspectorate. Other obstacles identified in the report include the new approach to calculating housing need, and the effectiveness of the Community Infrastructure Levy and Section 106 schemes as mechanisms for securing developer contributions.

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New funding framework launched for Government construction projects

Construction firms will have the opportunity to work on projects across the government and public sector estates over the next seven years under a new funding framework launched by the Crown Commercial Service (CCS).
The Construction Works and Associated Services agreement, announced 5 February, will support growth in the construction sector by awarding contracts for the refurbishment, repair and demolition of public buildings to companies of all sizes. The cost of the planned works, which could be up to £30bn, will be taken from existing departmental budgets.

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More than 165,000 social rented homes lost

More than 165,000 social rented homes in England have been lost over the last six years, with potentially another 34,000 gone by 2020, analysis from the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) shows.
Data from the MHCLG and Homes England suggests around 117,828 local authority and 47,869 housing association homes for social rent were lost between 2012 and 2018, adding to growing concerns around affordable housing supply. But the industry body is hopeful that positive Government announcements, including increased funding for housing associations and lifting the Housing Revenue Account borrowing cap, will reduce future losses.

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Nearly half of all children in privately rented homes live in poverty

An estimated 1.3 million children live in poverty in privately rented homes in England, according to new research published on 8 February by the National Housing Federation (NHF). The research reveals a 69 per cent increase in the figure over the past ten years, which the NHF attributes to higher property prices and fewer homes being available as social housing.
The NHF is calling on the Government to improve access to social housing, which it predicts could help around a quarter of a million children out of poverty as well as saving £1.8m a year in benefit payments.

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Fall in single-person households among millennials

26 per cent of 20 to 34-year olds in the UK now live at home with their parents, compared with 19 per cent in 1998, a new report from Civitas shows.
Published on 7 February, Rise and Fall: The shift in household growth rates since the 1990s, cites housing affordability as a key factor in the change, with the figures correlating to relative house prices across UK regions, but cautions against using household formation rates as a basis for calculating housing need.

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New home registrations fall flat

UK developers registered 159,617 new homes with the National House-Building Council (NHBC) in 2018, a 0.5 per cent decrease on the previous year, data released on 7 February by the warranty provider has shown.
A continued slump in London’s housebuilding market saw registrations fall 10 per cent to 16,069, while Northern Ireland was the leading region experiencing growth with a 39 per cent increase. Completions also remained stable, up only one per cent nationwide.

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January blues for house prices

House prices in the three months to January grew by 0.8 per cent compared with the same period last year, but fell 2.9 per cent from December 2018, the latest Halifax House Price Index revealed.
Halifax attributed the decline in house prices to a fall in new buyer enquiries and highlighted that it is the second time in three years that a drop has been recorded at the start of a new year.

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Transport

Consultation on new light rail schemes launched

A consultation on the potential for new light rail schemes to enhance passenger mobility across England’s towns and cities has been launched by the Government. Calling for evidence on the need for other light rail and rapid transit systems, views are also being sought on the possible environmental, economic and congestion benefits that new systems could deliver.
How light rail solutions could integrate with new technology – such as autonomous vehicles – and existing transport networks is also being considered. The consultation was announced by the Minister of State for Transport, Jesse Norman MP on 7 February and remains open until 19 May 2019.

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Campaigners call for railway reopening scheme to improve connectivity

Campaign for Better Transport has appealed to the Government to launch a national railway reopening programme to create 33 new rail lines and 72 new stations. Published on 5 February, The case for expanding the rail network calls for a £4.8 billion investment into the scheme,
which the report claims would allow an additional 20 million passenger journeys each year and bring over 500,000 people within walking distance of a new station. The campaign group says the scheme would create or protect up to 6,500 jobs in construction and 1,650 new railway jobs.

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All aboard the hydrogen train

Hydrogen trains could help the Government to avoid costly electrification and support the development of more sustainable energy options, the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IoME) has claimed in a new report.
Published on 7 February, The Future for Hydrogen Trains in the UK urges the Government to continue its programme of electrification but suggests areas outside of the electrified rail network should run on hydrogen instead of diesel. The report argues that hydrogen train technology could be applied to other modes of transport, including buses, and even used to help decarbonise heating.

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Energy and Environment

Net zero carbon buildings consultation launched

The UK Green Building Council (UKGBC) has launched a consultation seeking views on its proposed definition for net zero carbon buildings. Announced on 4 February, UKGBC is looking to develop a framework in line with the Paris Climate Agreement, with its Net Zero Carbon Buildings Task Group facilitating the consultation.
The Task Group is part of the UKGBC’s Advancing Net Zero programme, which aims to transition the UK’s built environment into a net carbon neutral sector. UKGBC is inviting feedback by 1 March from business leaders and stakeholders in the construction and property industries.

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18 per cent growth in European offshore wind capacity

European offshore wind capacity grew by 18 per cent in 2018 thanks to major new installations across the continent.
2.6 GW of capacity were installed last year, according to figures published on 7 February by Wind Europe, with the UK and Germany accounting for most of the new supply. Investment in new projects was also up on 2017, with a further 4.2 GW of capacity set to be delivered.

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Other News

UK construction output tempers in January

UK construction activity slowed to its lowest rate in ten months, according to the latest IHS Markit/CIPS UK Construction Total Activity Index published on 4 February. Construction output was at its lowest point since March last year, when productivity was heavily affected by snow.
January also saw the slowest employment expansion numbers in the industry since 2016. Work on commercial construction projects was the worst performing sub-section of the market, while the number of both residential and civil projects experienced only marginal increases.

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