News & PressThe City Surveys Group - The UK's Measurement Specialists
Controversial prefabricated homes
Published: 23rd February 2017
This Article was Written by: Richard Furlong - City Surveys Group
Earlier this month, the government published a white paper outlining its plans to tackle the nationwide housing shortage. Accelerate residential construction across England.
Among other things, the paper – aptly entitled ‘Fixing our broken housing market’ – proposes putting extra pressure on local authorities to deliver on housing plans, investing in innovative manufacturing techniques and the future diversification of the building sector.
All the changes are intended to reinvigorate the construction sector and address the UK’s shortage of residential housing.
For instance, by putting more pressure on local authorities, the government hopes to significantly shorten the completion of planning notices. Aiding developers to move more quickly from permission to site work. This could shorten the lifespan of a building project by as much as twelve months.
The Department for Communities & Local Government (DCLG) state the intention is to obligate every local authority in England to produce realistic, regularly revised plans.
However, a controversial component of the white paper is a suggestion regarding the construction of wooden-framed, prefabricated houses on public sector land.
Banks and mortgage lenders, in particular, gave a cautious response to the prospect of the reintroduction of prefab housing, something not seen widely in the UK since the post-war years.
Simon Read, managing director of Magellan Homeloans, said: “The challenge is whether they’re going to be standing in 25 years; and until you’ve gone through 25 years you just don’t know.”
He added: “We have talked to surveyors who said the problem with timber frames is if they’re not done right and you get a fire it’s gone in two years. That’s frightening; that’s what our asset is based on.”
Andrew Carpenter, chief executive of the Structural Timber Association, said that offsite timber construction was the only way to reach the government’s target of one million new homes by 2020.
He responded: “Offsite manufactured structural timber systems have advanced greatly in recent years and can offer house-builders cost, programme and performance assurances.
“Innovation in the structural timber product range has broadened the appeal – the industry is no longer defined simply by the supply of timber frame kits and panelised solutions.”
In addition to the push for prefabricated homes, the white paper sets out plans to ‘diversify the housing market’ by opening it up to small- and medium-sized companies, cultivating competition and encouraging new partnerships.
The paper states that in working with many, smaller offsite construction companies it will ‘lower developer risk and help overcome issues with access to finance and build out sites up to twice the rate a large developer might’.
Other critics have suggested the white paper may encourage authorities to encroach on the greenbelt.
A spokesperson said: “Greenbelt boundaries should be amended only in exceptional circumstances when local authorities can demonstrate that they have fully examined all other reasonable options for meeting their identified housing requirements.”
To aid the implementation of the white paper, the DCLG plans to set up a working encouraging industry leaders and lenders to ‘develop a stronger set of core data to measure the use and performance of different technologies to encourage good decision-making’.
Communities Secretary, Sajid Javid, told the House of Commons: “Our housing market is broken. The symptoms of this broken market are being felt by real people in every community. It’s one of the biggest barriers to social progress this country faces. But its root cause is simple. For far too long, we have not built enough houses.
“To meet demand, we have to deliver between 225,000 and 275,000 homes every year. In short, we have to build more of the right houses in the right places. And we have to start right now. Today’s white paper sets out how we will go about doing so.”