CRESR Seminar - Policy Forum: Private housing developers - business strategy, behaviours and motivations

Start date: 
Wed, 11/01/2017
Closing date: 
Wed, 11/01/2017
Sheffield Hallam University, City Campus, Stoddart Building, Room 7139
Event contact: 
Ian Wilson & Will Eadson

Time: 4.00-5.00 pm


Ian Cole, Sheffield Hallam University
Tom Archer, Sheffield Hallam University
Sarah Payne, University of Sheffield


Tom Archer and Ian Cole

The supply of new housing in UK has slowly ratchetted down over the preceding 40 years. Mirroring this trend has been the retreat of the State from direct involvement in housebuilding. Large private housebuilders have become the predominant source of new housing, with the biggest ten firms building nearly half of annual output. As this market has slowly become more concentrated, the activities and financial performance of such organisations has remained opaque. Our recent research (Archer and Cole, 2016) reveals how the modest increases in output by large firms bellies the rapid growth in their revenues, profit before tax and year end profits. It highlights processes of divestment to shareholders and how this shapes output nationally. Furthermore, it reveals how the average sale price of new units developed by the biggest firms have started outperforming the wider housing market, and how such desired sale prices might drive misalignments in supply and demand. It is argued that central government can play a more decisive role in increasing housing supply, and why this will be necessary to meet future housing need. The research directs attention toward certain policy measures, specifically those that move the balance of housing subsidy away from demand and towards supply.

Sarah Payne

With the cyclical nature of market-led housing systems presenting a turbulent, transitionary context to speculative housing production, adding further complexity to the social relations by which new homes are supplied, there remains a notable gap in our understanding of how speculative housebuilders adapt and change their business behaviours in response to significant institutional shocks in their operating environment. In response, this paper positions housing market recovery as a turbulent institutional transition to investigate what changes housebuilders have made to their business behaviours since the onset of the recovery phase and evaluates whether housebuilders have the institutional flexibility to increase housing output as recovery takes hold. In doing so, this paper reveals how housing supply is constrained in the post-recession development context and emphasises the institutionally-constituted behaviours of housebuilders as an important factor in understanding housing supply constraints.


Professor Ian Cole

Ian Cole is Professor of Housing Studies and a Principal Research Fellow in the Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research (CRESR) at Sheffield Hallam University. He has extensive experience of research, teaching and writing in the field of housing and regeneration policy and practice. He has directed research projects for the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP), the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG), Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF), regional bodies, local authorities and housing associations.

Tom Archer

Tom Archer is a freelance researcher, and recently completed his PhD at CRESR. Tom has spent 15 years in a variety of social research and policy roles, focusing on community involvement in housing and regeneration. Most recently he led the development of the European End Street Homelessness Campaign, and has also been instrumental in the development of Community Land Trusts in England. Tom is currently advising a large national funder to create grant and support programmes for community-led housing.

Sarah Payne

Sarah Payne is an early career academic based in the Department of Urban Studies and Planning at the University of Sheffield. Prior to joining academia in 2012, Sarah spent four years working in private practice as a Land Buyer for a volume housebuilder and a Property Consultant. Sarah’s research specialism is in the causes and consequences of institutional change in the real estate development process with a specific interest in what limits or stimulates new housing development. Her recent research has examined housebuilder motivations and behaviour towards zero carbon homes, green infrastructure and housing market recovery. Sarah has undertaken 9 funded projects (3 as PI) including studies for ESRC, NERC, DCLG, RICS and British Academy. She is currently working on a NERC innovation project exploring green infrastructure interventions with built environment professionals in Manchester.

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