Materials shortage ‘poses biggest challenge’ to housebuilders

1 July 2021 | Construction

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Housebuilders have identified widespread material shortages as the biggest problem they are facing this year.

Nearly seven in 10 respondents to a poll by LABC Warranty said accessing materials for housebuilding will prove a big challenge in 2021. The availability of materials across the construction industry has become constrained as activity has surged with companies catching up on work paused during the coronavirus pandemic.

LABC Warranty technical director Sarah Sheppard said the poll reflected changes arising from the pandemic and the Brexit transition period: “These factors, coupled with the extra scrutiny building products and materials manufacturers and the testing and accreditation bodies are facing, have all landed at the same time,” she said.

Federation of Master Builders chief executive Brian Berry said more than 90 per cent of their members had been affected by material shortages and price increases: “Material shortages are having a disproportionate impact on small to medium-sized (SME) firms who cannot order in bulk and stockpile to the same extent as larger firms,” he said.

“We must ensure that materials are being made available to all parts of the industry, including our SMEs who represent 99 per cent of construction businesses.”

The Construction Leadership Council (CLC) said last month that the “unprecedented” materials shortage is set to continue well into the second half of 2021. Timber and roof tiles are among the materials experiencing the most severe shortages, and the situation is expected to worsen before it gets better, according to industry representatives.

The new-home warranty provider surveyed 1,500 housebuilding professionals for its study into the main business challenges in 2021. Other problems cited apart from materials availability included inability to recruit enough skilled workers, with 55 per cent of those surveyed concerned.

Civil Engineering Contractors Association chief executive Alasdair Reisner said skills shortages remain a “perennial issue” for the wider construction industry. He said: “It is important that we get the skills system for the construction industry back up and running to full effect as quickly as possible, to ensure that labour availability doesn’t become the new constraint on delivery as material supply issues are hopefully resolved.”

Getting planning permission for housebuilding was cited as a concern by 29 per cent of respondents, while nearly a quarter said finding land for new-builds was an issue. In the Queen’s Speech in May, the Conservative government proposed changes to planning laws with the aim of increasing the number of new houses being built.

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