1.4 Billion Bricks Needed to Fix UK Housing Market?
The UK brick industry has dismissed claims that the UK is suffering from a shortage of bricks as “out of date”.
A new report, compiled by the National Association of Estate Agents (NAEA) and the Centre for Economics and Business Research, reported that a shortage of brick supply has been a contributing factor in rising house prices over the past decade, as growing demand continues to outstrip availability of housing.
“Even with willingness from contractors to build homes following Brexit, the UK’s construction sector would require a total of 1.4 billion bricks in order to resolve the housing shortage in the UK. This is the equivalent of the total amount which would be needed to build all the houses in Leicestershire,” says the report.
“Between 2006 and 2016, the growing UK population triggered exponential growth in demand, and has now outgrown the number of houses being built. Given that in 2016 the average UK home is made up of 5,180 bricks, resolving the housing shortage of 264,000 units would require 1.4 billion bricks.”
This proposed 1.4 billion bricks deficit could build 740 Big Bens, 40 Tower Bridges or 4,540 Warwick Castles.
“The impact of Brexit could significantly worsen the issue. In 2015, 85 per cent of all imported clay and cement (primary brick components) came from the EU, and so depending on how trade negotiations develop, Brexit could have a considerable impact on supply,” adds the report, which notes that brick stock steadily declined between 2008 and 2013 and only partially recovered in 2014 and 2015.
Mark Hayward, Managing Director, National Association of Estate Agents comments: “We all know that the massive lack of supply in housing is an issue that needs resolving urgently. As well as freeing up more land to ensure we can build the right sort of houses in the right places, it’s crucial we have the right materials and skills to do so.”
However, the Brick Development Association, representing brick manufacturers in the UK, has slammed the report as “out of date and unhelpful”, pointing out that the NAEA report is based on data from April 2015, which is “15 months out of date” and “misleading and damaging for the brick and construction industry”.
Andrew Eagles, CEO of the BDA, says that brick production has risen significantly over the last two years.
“This is a lazy analysis. The BDA represents 99 per cent of the brick manufacturers in the UK. We can report with absolute authority that there is no shortage,” he comments.
The increase in brick production is confirmed by ONS statistics, adds Eagles, while the Construction Products Association, Builders Merchants Federation and major house builders also confirm that they have not seen any issues with brick supply in the last year.
“The challenges the brick industry faced in 2014 when there was a dramatic increase in housebuilding are now behind us and the industry is confident it can meet the growing demand for its products in housing and other construction projects,” adds Eagles.
The bricks debate arrives at the same time as new figures from the housebuilding industry, which reported that 41,222 new homes were built in Q2 2016, a 1 per cent increase on the same period in 2015 and the highest number of houses built since Q4 of 2007.
Nonetheless, there are still headwinds facing the construction industry, including a skills shortgage and the potential impact of the UK’s Brexit vote, and the housing supply in the country is far from being solved. Trade bodies are now calling for government incentives to make construction apprenticeships more attractive.
Hayward adds: “We need investment in the sector to boost production, and housebuilding needs an image overhaul, to become a more attractive career prospect for school leavers and graduates.”