Is the government’s annual 300,000 new homes target just a fantasy?

Nick Potter, a Solicitor in Bishop and Sewell’s Commercial Property team.

I recently read an interesting opinion piece here with the author stating the case that it is time for the UK property industry to accept that we can only build 200,000 homes a year and leave behind the fantasy that we can build 300,000. This resonated with me as my late father who spent his whole working life in the Construction Industry and was a member of the Institute of Building, until his death last year, would always rally against these unrealistic political targets, writes Nick Potter a Partner and Head of solicitors Bishop and Sewell’s Commercial Property team.

Jonathan Monnickendam, CEO of The Development Debt Consultancy, quoted recent data from Savills that even constructing 200,000 homes annually is a struggle in most years.

He writes: “Building 300,000 was always going to be a challenge, with the construction industry facing a difficult future. Even one of the proposed ways out of this, pre-manufactured housing, has proved a far greater challenge than expected.

“The 300,000 target is also a challenge to democracy; recent proposed changes to the planning system had to be dropped, as they were deeply unpopular with voters and lethal to our democratically elected representatives who wanted to keep their posts.

“Like healthcare, there may be an almost infinite demand for housing as the population continues to grow, household size continues to shrink and demand for homes shifts towards the biggest cities. I suggest that the industry accepts its constraints and asks itself: if we can only build 200,000 homes a year, what should we do to achieve a better outcome”.

“One improvement would be to stop building micro-flats, with a significant amount of space lost to a pod bathroom that is used for just 20 minutes a day, in large anonymous schemes. Rather than a solution to the housing shortage, these flats may be part of the problem, as emphasised throughout Covid-19.”

I think his logic’s impeccable as is that of another specialist quoted by Property Week in a subsequent issue, in their round up of predictions for 2022.

Confirmed to keeping her thoughts to a single paragraph, Kerry McClinton-King of Six Senses Residences suggests that ‘community living’ will grow: “We’re seeing more, and a wider range of, on-site amenities and facilities at new developments which are within easy reach for purchasers and provide spaces for connecting with others. In addition, what previously would have been a second home is now becoming a co-primary residence, with owners splitting their time more evenly between their properties – something we’re also expecting to see more of in 2022 – meaning more consideration needs within the design of properties to ensure there are the right kinds of spaces and we are creating the right kind of environment, like work areas and fast internet connectivity, responding to the rise in flexible working.”

Like they say. It’s not rocket science but if the UK’s residential housing stock is to meet the needs of its population, now would be a good time for the government to pull a rabbit out of the hat.

If you would like to discuss any of the points raised in this article, please do get in contact with Nick and quote Ref CB271 to [email protected] or call on +44 (0)20 7631 4141.

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