Developing for the local economy and your community
As the Prime Minister sets out his roadmap to relaxing COVID-19 restrictions on business and everyday life, the headlines paint a bleak picture for the UK economy. The retail sector reports more iconic high-street brands going to the wall. The pubs and restaurants that have managed to survive this latest lockdown face to challenges of social distancing restrictions and changeable guidelines when they do re-open, with even the largest chains reporting closures and job losses. And the effect of Coronavirus on the wider economy cannot yet be fully calculated, with the Office for Budget Responsibility warning that unemployment could more than double by the end of this year to the highest levels since the 1980s.
So, what can we rely on to help revive our flagging economy and struggling jobs market? For the UK, the construction of new homes may well be the answer. Building homes is a tried and tested way to boost any economy and the effects on the national economy and on local economies can be profound.
We caught up with two of our contractors - TC Homes and Timber Kit Solutions, who are currently working with Connexus on our forthcoming development scheme at Tillington Road, Hereford - to explore the impact of our construction of new homes on the local economy and jobs market.
The first point is the most obvious but perhaps the most important: the construction of more affordable and social homes creates jobs, directly and indirectly. Like other contractors working with Connexus, TC Homes employ all office staff and Site Managers directly from the local area. On-site is a similar story, with at least 80% of sub-contractors drawn from the local area. This includes groundworks, civil engineers, bricklayers, timber frame manufacturers, carpenters, roofers, plumbers, electricians and plasterers, demonstrating the widespread positive impact our developments can have on a variety of local trades and businesses. And, for our development at Tillington Road, Hereford, Shrewsbury-based TC Homes have called on Telford-based Timber Kit Solutions to supply the wooden frames for the new homes. That's two local economies and communities directly benefiting from this investment in social and affordable housing.
The so-called ‘knock-on’ effect of construction can also create or at least maintain jobs indirectly. Our on-site staff all use local shops and cafes for food, helping to support a sector starting to open up but struggling with footfall.
Boris Johnson has been talking since February 2020 about how his Government wants to lead a “levelling up” of skills and prosperity right across the UK. Construction of social and affordable homes is a clear way to level up local employment skillsets, making the local economy more sustainable in the long-term. TC Homes, like all of our contractors, provide training to Site Managers and Assistant Managers on health and safety, tele-handling and first aid, alongside construction-specific training, including the nationally recognised Site Management Safety Training Scheme.
Connexus has long supported apprenticeships, recognising them as a great way to develop new skills and as a gateway into your chosen profession. Our contractors share this vision, preferring to use tradespeople with apprentices in everything from plumbing to surveying. The benefits to individuals are clear, but apprenticeships can also improve local economic growth in a number of ways. Apprenticeships help to retain skills in the local economy, reducing the need for younger people to leave the rural communities Connexus operates in (the so-called “brain-drain” effect). They also increase staff retention, with employers less likely to want to lose employees they have seriously invested in.
Amongst all the talk of “unprecedented times” and uncertain economic futures, one thing is for sure: the road to recovery for the UK will be a long and winding one. But we stand firmly behind our belief that social and affordable homes will be at the heart of this economic recovery, perhaps even benefitting local economies and rural communities the most. Of course, this relies on the Government recognising that the value that social housing has not only to our tenants but to the country as a whole.