Theresa May last week confirmed that she will ensure Brexit reduces immigration, sparking discussion about what this will mean for housebuilding.
In a speech at London’s Lancaster House on Tuesday Mrs May set out her priorities for the forthcoming negotiations on Britain’s exit from the European Union. Controlling migration from Europe was near the top of the list, with Mrs May confirming that she would not seek membership of the common market, due to the requirement for members to permit freedom of movement. Mrs May said:
“In the last decade or so, we have seen record levels of net migration in Britain, and that sheer volume has put pressure on public services, like schools, [and] stretched our infrastructure, especially housing.”
‘‘The message from the public before and during the referendum campaign was clear: Brexit must mean control of the number of people who come to Britain from Europe. And that is what we will deliver.”
Members of the House of Lords were quick to explore what impact this could have on housing numbers. Following the speech DCLG’s Minister in the Lords, Lord Bourne was asked to provide information on the role immigration played in household formation. On being told that net migration was estimated to drive 37% to 45% of household growth, Crossbench peer Lord Green of Deddington argued that:
‘‘The difference between high and zero migration is 110,000 households being formed every year. That is 300 every day. To put the point slightly more dramatically, that would mean building a home every five minutes, night and day, for new arrivals until such time as we get those numbers down.’’
Lord Bourne responded:
‘‘My Lords, as I have indicated, just over a third of the growth in the main scenario is attributable to migration. It is a two-year cycle and we review the figures every two years. The next review will be at the end of this year, when some of the scenarios may well change because of the impact of Brexit over the period. But the noble Lord is absolutely right about the challenge of building more houses. That is certainly true, but most of it is not to do with migration.’’
The Minister went on to touch on concerns that a fall in EU migrants would limit the ability of the construction industry to build homes to meet rising domestic demand, saying:
‘‘We are in regular contact with BEIS and the Construction Leadership Council, looking at the importance of skills in this regard. The Prime Minister has indicated that, regardless of leaving the European Union, we will still have a need for the best and the brightest in terms of work and apprenticeships.’’
These sorts of discussions are being had in parish halls and council chambers across the country. There is a real perception that the forthcoming fall in immigration, now confirmed by the Prime Minister, will lead to a reduction in housing need. Whilst the reality is more complex, with pent-up demand from years of under-delivery and continued increases in both the longevity of British citizens and the number of people living alone likely to require sustained high levels of housebuilding in the years ahead, perceptions can of course sway planning committee votes.
One Brexit impact on housing is readily apparent –making a compelling case for new homes, in the face of growing scepticism about housing need, is more important than ever.