Building Companies in London and the “Small Builders” Initiative
London needs more affordable homes, but with large development companies in London focusing on regeneration projects, or large-scale developments dominating the housebuilding sector, many small and medium-sized developers and housebuilders are on the decline mainly due to limited access to land and finance.
In order to meet London’s need for quality affordable housing, there needs to arguably be a mix of housing and communities on offer. SME developers need to be brought back into the fold to achieve this and have access to more unique opportunities which is where the Small Site, Small Builders programme comes in.
Why is there a need to develop smaller sites and what are the challenges?
The Greater London Authority has launched the Small Sites Programme in which they wish to help make smaller, publicly-owned sites available to SME developers, housing associations and community-led organisations so they can play a bigger role in building the homes that London needs. Landowners with smaller sites can be a valuable resource in increasing the supply of new affordable homes in London. In recent years, London has been increasingly reliant on a few large construction firms that deliver bigger and more expensive developments.
Even though there is a huge potential for small and medium-sized building companies in London to use these publicly-owned sites for affordable residential housing, since they are skilled at developing these smaller sites, there are still a number of challenges that need to be addressed.
One of the main hurdles SME housebuilders face is limited access to land, which is partly due to the fact that publicly owned sites are often sold in auctions. When sold this way, the plots go to the highest bidder (in most cases, the largest developer), and the landowner who is selling has little control over how they will be utilised. SME developers and contractors also struggle with public procurement and planning certainty.
How will the small sites and small builders programme help?
This scheme attempts to bridge the gap between these two extremes by combining the convenience of land auctions with the possibility for public landowners to exert some control over the future of the site. The main focus of the programme is to promote the development of affordable housing by assisting SME builders and community-led housing developments. To this effect, the Greater London Authority has provided funds that are being used to help public landowners identify suitable sites, unlock potential sites that would otherwise be unfeasible for development, and commission a full set of surveys to mitigate the risks for prospective small building companies in London.
About Jerram Falkus
Jerram Falkus is a family-run building company in London with extensive experience acquiring sites and delivering high-quality residential schemes like, Geffrye Place, Cannon Park, and Baldwin Terrace.