5 Things to Expect from the Redfern


The biggest UK housing review since Dame Kate Barker published the 2003 Review of Housing Supply has commenced, amidst concerns about the sustainable future of Britain’s housing stock. Conducted by Pete Redfern, chief executive at Taylor Wimpey, and backed by John Healey MP the shadow housing minister. The Redfern Review will assess and challenge the most prevalent property issues in the UK today, including affordability, ownership schemes, supply and planning. Many points that will be raised in the review are likely to reflect those in 2003. Which opened its case by stating: ‘Housing is a basic human need, which is fundamental to our economic and social well-being. Yet housing provision is often controversial and provokes strong reactions.’

We discuss the most likely topics that will take place.

Supply needs to be kick-started

We begin with the most obvious. In 2007, the Labour government set a housebuilding target of 240,000, a figure which would just about sustain Britain’s growing population and investment potential. Despite much publicised initiatives, setbacks – most notably the 2008 crash – and systemic flaws, resulted in a drop in construction to below 119,000 new builds by the end of 2009, and numbers haven’t risen above 170,000 ever since.

In a recent statement, Redfern noted: “We are not trying to set a number [for homeownership] that we say is right, and it’s not a one-way street, but it’s falling consistently and that’s not a healthy thing. One thing we’re clear on is we’re not promoting homeownership at the expense of other tenures.”

We expect his review to continue the warnings in 2003 that ‘housing contributes to macroeconomic instability and hinders labour market flexibility, constraining economic growth.’ We also expect it to address how interactions between housebuilding and planning parties can be improved, alongside where these homes are placed and how much space they have.

Roles within the housing industry

It has been widely publicised that the UK housing market is moving towards an ever-growing era of privatisation. With social housing and opportunities for housing associations reducing, so Redfern may stride into a full assessment of the private sector and whether its dominance should be redistributed.

Although Redfern has said that the review isn’t about party politics. The balance between public and private sector provision may emerge as a key discussion that could emphasise the need for a few policy U-turns.

More planning reform

Since 2005, the current government has created a number of proposals in its Housing and Planning Bill to reduce the amount of bureaucracy in the planning system, but we predict that the review will call for much more to be done. In a 2015 housebuilders survey, the construction industry revealed that the UK planning system and local opposition were the two key factors holding back housebuilding.

Following a series of planning reforms, the number of planning permissions for new homes reached 240,000 by the end of September 2014, but many permissions expire, highlighting the need for a more speedy process for future projects.

Land distribution and assessment

There is little doubt that the relationship between housebuilders and land provision will be included in the upcoming review, as this platform will allow the industry to focus its efforts on supply. The issue has become more systemic over the years. Residential land prices rose 170% from 2000 to 2007 according to the IPPR, which was partly responsible for developers sitting on undeveloped land and a reduction of opportunities for smaller developers to enter the fold. Unlike the Barker Review, which was keen to highlight customer service and satisfaction, we predict that a more ‘bare bones’ approach will be taken toward more radical steps to reduce financial obstacles, tackle unproductive behaviour and create more competition in the development sector.

Assessment of current housing schemes

Homeownership schemes have been promoted thick and fast in recent years, so much so that they may take a central role in the Redfern Review. Listed alongside low levels of supply and land availability, schemes like Help to Buy and Right to Rent seem like they are skirting around the edges of the key issues today, but they can’t be ignored in today’s market. We forecast that the effect of such schemes on the housing market will be discussed in terms of overall supply and perhaps the long term viability of such schemes while housebuilding remains low.