Construction – are housebuilders failing disabled buyers and investors?

18 June 2021 | Investment

While Covid has caused new-build housing delivery to fall by 45% per year, research also shows that the proportion of those new build homes built to accessible standards is predicted to fall from 34.4% to 31.5% over the next decade.

This decline directly relates to accessible and adaptable homes (M4 Category 2) or wheelchair user dwellings (M4 Category 3) – both of which provide additional features to the average new-build including wider doors, stronger bathroom walls that can facilitate a grab-rail and greater circulation space for those in a wheelchair.

Harry Yates, founder and managing director of HouseScan, comments: “In this day and age, it’s just not acceptable that some housebuilders continue to cut corners, and quite frankly it’s appalling that they would allow such serious errors to occur where disabled access to a property is concerned.”

“Unfortunately, it’s a problem that we’re seeing more and more of in our work at HouseScan. The repercussions from serious, technical issues are far greater than those from your more common, aesthetic snagging issues.”

“In some cases, these issues are severe enough to cast concern on whether or not the house should have been signed off in the first place.”

The latest figures show that 180,140 new-build homes were completed across the UK over the last year. This reduced level of disabled accessible homes means that just 56,744 would have been fit for disabled new build homebuyers – over 5,000 fewer than the level delivered prior to 2020.

With both property prices and stock availability making it harder for disabled homebuyers to ascend the property ladder, it’s perhaps unsurprising just 40.9% of disabled people owned their own home in 2019/20.

Yates adds: “Although we see many new homes that have been built to correct standards, the push for more new homes and the increasing amount of professional snagging inspections taking place means that we’re seeing more and more issues come to light, leaving home buyers uncertain and anxious about the quality of their homes.”

He urges anyone who thinks they’ve been let down on any aspect of their new-build to make themselves heard, ‘so that the handful of housebuilders who chance their luck on the life savings of their customers are held to account and the overall standard of new homes in the UK can improve’.

The need for expanded knowledge

Career advisers should expand their construction industry knowledge to encourage young people about what are exciting job opportunities in the sector, according to a Midlands training organisation.

The statement from Chris Luty, chief executive of the BCTG Group, comes after the Construction Industry Training Board predicted 217,000 new workers would be needed by 2025 to meet increased demand after the sector’s Covid-19 bounce back.

Luty, whose company runs the BCTG Construction Skills Centre at Kelvin Way Trading Estate in West Bromwich, explained that one of the biggest issues was persuading young people to consider construction jobs, apprenticeships or training.

He says: “There is an acute shortage of young people coming forward to train and work in skilled construction jobs. If you roll those shortages forward three or five years and combine it with the lack of drive for young people, the skills gap in the sector will become enormous.”

“I believe that one of the main answers is the quality of careers advice, coupled with the image of the sector. We have to ask just how well young people are being advised at school, and challenge the construction sector over how well it projects itself.”

Luty says construction is not just about laying bricks and painting walls. “Yes, construction needs people with trade skills, but the sector is also about design, planning, and increasingly environmental skills, so the advice given to young people needs to highlight the long-term career progression routes available.”

“If they firstly get the core trade skills to work in the sector, young people could soon find themselves in site management positions, with the potential to go through further training to make the step to even more senior jobs.”

The BCTG Group supports the training of almost 10,000 young people and adults each year via 10 sites in Birmingham, the Black Country, Staffordshire and Newcastle-under-Lyme.

The group includes PTP Training, trading as Performance Through People, BCTG Ltd, Eurosource Solutions, Further Training and The Apprenticeship Works.

It offers 166 different types of apprenticeship, 84 different adult upskilling and reskilling courses and 27 pre-apprenticeship programmes for 16 to 18-year-olds. These include everything from healthcare and early years care to construction, engineering, manufacturing and logistics, through to business skills in IT, management and team-leading.

Luty adds: “In some areas of education, there’s still the old-fashioned advice that if you’re not very academic you should get a job on a building site. Now that’s fine for some people, and you can make an incredibly good living as a builder.”

“But we need to encourage careers advisors to get the message across that if a young person can get a trade, it could prove to be a foundation towards ending up in a profession.”

“At the same time, the construction industry needs to display these opportunities, so that young people can aspire to such careers,” he concludes.

This post has originally been featured in Property Investor Today.