Britain 'Won't Build Enough Houses After Brexit Without Immigrants'

Builders are warning the government that Britain could struggle to create enough homes unless the construction industry has access to European workers after Brexit.

The call, issued by the Home Builders Federation (HBF), is accompanied by new figures that show the industry's growing dependence on a ready supply of young workers from other EU states.

The Home Building Workforce Census 2017, published Tuesday (5 December), finds that "17.7 percent of the home building workforce is from a European Union country," with Romania, Poland, Lithuania and Ireland the top countries of origin.

Overall, one in five workers (19.7 percent) on U.K. building sites is from another country.

Construction UK Housebuilding
Property sale signs are seen outside of a group of newly built houses in west London, Britain, November 23, 2017. Britain needs immigrant labor to create houses, builders say. Toby Melville/File Photo/Reuters

As the workforce ages, the survey adds, access to immigrant labour will become more important. More than 22 percent of construction workers who hold U.K. passports are over 50, compared to just 10 percent of those who come from the EU.

"The house building industry has increased output by 74 percent in the past four years and last year saw 217k additions to the housing stock," an HBF statement said.

"But with Government setting a challenging target of 300k additional homes a year by 2025, industry capacity remains a huge challenge.

"As the industry looks to increase output HBF will be working with ministers and officials to ensure that existing capacity is not threatened while builders continue to work to attract the next generation of home builders into the industry."

An HBF spokesperson explained that the group did not have a specific policy request for the government, but was keen to provide evidence to persuade the government that access to immigrant labour for construction should be preserved in some way.

Stewart Baseley, executive chairman of the HBF said; "The results of this census clearly demonstrate the reliance the industry currently has on non U.K. workers.

"Whilst the industry is investing heavily in recruiting and training young people leaving our schools, colleges and universities, continued access to overseas workers is absolutely essential."

The HBF represents construction firms who, between them, account for 80 percent of new homes built in England and Wales each year.