17 Dec 2021

Supply chain challenges affecting housing

Within the media it is well documented that there is an urgent need for the Welsh Government and housing organisations to take action to reduce homelessness, along with building 20,000 new low carbon social homes. 

To boost the number of affordable homes the Welsh Government has committed to building 20,000 low carbon social homes by 2025. Building more social homes is vital to tackling the issue of homelessness and building these homes with help alleviate existing pressures on other organisations/services.

To ensure there is enough resources to achieve this target, the construction industry in Wales, along with the rest of the UK are heavily reliant on the global supply chain. However, the issues currently facing supply chains has posed significant pressures on the Welsh Government and the housing sector to deliver their ambitious target on time.

Research undertaken by Tyfu Tai Cymru (part of CIH Cymru), identified that Brexit posed significant challenges for housing organisations in terms of a shortage of construction materials and delays in accessing them. Another finding identified was the restrictions enforced because of COVID-19 resulting in staff shortages from needing to self-isolate, especially due to the “pingdemic”. It was also noted that there is a shortage of staff with expertise skills. 

Not only did the findings mentioned above cause delays for repairs and maintenance on existing homes, but they have resulted in further delays in retrofitting existing homes and building new homes. Whilst significant price increases for materials and labour have resulted in a shortfall in cash flow for smaller contractors and sub-contractors, who may struggle to stay financially viable without government support.

Despite the supply chain issues, housing organisations were confident they did deliver short-term solutions. However,  moving forward - to mitigate further destabilisation of unanticipated events over the longer-term, it is important that the Welsh Government delivers dynamic solutions.

This should include producing and leading a supply chain lead reliance plan – to capture the approach to growing and diversifying current supply chains and developing a workforce strategy for the social and affordable housing sector to underpin the skills needed to service and maintain supply chain activity.

In addition, it is recommended that the housing sector can engage with their tenants at an early stage – ensuring the communication they provide in relation to the impact that delays have on tenant-facing services are clear and honest, in addition to reviewing and identifying any additional skills needed to develop for any individual/team within their internal workforce.

When we think about the future of the housing and its decarbonisation agenda, it is important to focus on how both the Welsh Government and the housing sector can implement dynamic solutions that will mitigate the risk of the supply chain issues causing a detrimental impact on the delivery of housing services long-term.