Private housing developers are holding back on developments due to the uncertainty surrounding Brexit and land value losses, warn experts from law firm Clarke Willmott LLP. While new home building fund announcements have been welcomed, as they indicate a shift towards a more flexible approach towards homes being built for rent as well as for sale, fewer planning applications are being granted permission according to social housing experts at the firm.

At Clarke Willmott’s Autumn Housing Conference, lawyers warned this could lead to private developers ‘land banking’ which will impact on the overall supply of housing.

Jonathan Hulley, partner and joint head of the social housing sector at Clarke Willmott, said: “There is definitely a changing landscape which we are helping our clients navigate their way through. There are unknowns, the biggest one being the implications from Brexit, but there are also opportunities, for registered providers in particular, from the proposed deregulation reforms of the Housing and Planning Act and from the recent government housing announcements.

“At our conference we covered these topics as well as focussing on delivering social value through procurement and how social landlords can make the most of their contractors and partners for the benefit of their communities.”

Government announcements have included a focus on housing as a key industry. With a budget of £20 billion over the next 5 years, including the £3 billion Home Building Fund which is to provide loans to facilitate 25,000 homes by 2020; £2 billion funding for infrastructure and £2 billion on ‘Accelerated Construction Schemes’ designed to unlock development on public land, housing is a topic at the top of the agenda. 

The announcements follow the call from housing sector bodies and housing associations to introduce flexibility over the funding rules for housing to build homes for rent as well as to buy. 

Chimi Shakohoxha, partner and joint head of the social housing sector at Clarke Willmott, said: “In these times when the economy is looking more fragile and there is an increased risk to community cohesion, what social landlords do is even more important to ensure communities remain together.

“With an increasing focus on commercial activities, developing for market sale and rent and managing more diverse and mixed estates, the job of being a social landlord has never been more challenging.

“The conference was useful for lawyers and housing professionals to come together to discuss the issues of the day and look into the future to find solutions that are right and work for the business, landlords and communities.”