Tens of thousands of quick build homes could be constructed across the country to reduce the crisis in the housing sector
Communities Secretary Sajid Javid said quick build homes could offer a solution to the government’s “biggest social issue”.
Speaking to Sky News, Javid said housing that can be rapidly constructed could help meet government targets of delivering a million homes by the end of the decade.
Modular construction and quick built homes are not a new phenomenon and are already in use in Germany and the Netherlands, where the Communities Secretary has been finding out what is on offer there. The UK itself has a history of this method of construction; prefab homes were built after the second world war across the country to rehome displaced families after the bombing. Furthermore, it is not a surprise to the sector, as it was leaked by a government source in the summer that pre-built construction would top the agenda.
Ready to go homes will be key
Javid said “ready to go” homes would form a key component of the Housing White Paper, which (after a delay) is expected to be published this month.
He said: “These are made-to-measure, ready-made, ready-to-go modern stylish homes and if Germany can do it and other countries can do it I think they can be an important part of what we can deliver in UK.
“It can really make a difference, especially in terms of speed; so whereas today you can have a plot that is available for maybe a 1,000 homes – it can take years and years for them to be actually homes that people are ready to move into.
“I think if we can make that much quicker, maybe a couple of years or even less, it can make a dramatic difference.”
The housing crisis remains a thorn in the side of the government and one of the most discussed areas of policy. Javid said it was the “biggest social issue” facing the government, which has promised to deliver a whopping one million homes by 2020. However, only 190,000 new homes were built last year, falling short of the 250,000 per year requirement needed to meet the target. With this in mind it is becoming increasingly likely the government will fail to meet this figure.
A history of failing on housing
Shadow Secretary of State for Housing John Healey said the government had a history of failing on housing, stating there had been “a huge gulf between the rhetoric and the record”.
He added: “Ministers have made hundreds of housing announcements but they’ve added up to the lowest level of affordable housebuilding in 24 years, a fall in levels of home ownership, homelessness which has doubled.
“Really, the extent of the housing crisis in all parts of the country now demands much more of this government.”
The government has tried to do all it can to increase building by cutting red tape in the planning system and streamlining the process for development on brownfield sites. However, yearly targets still fall short.
“There is no single magic bullet that is really going to lead the big increase, it is really about taking lots of action – both with the planning system but also with the types of homes we build,” Javid said, although pre-built homes could certainly offer a solution.
Reforms are necessary
Javid has also faced significant criticism over plans to encourage councils to increase the number of homes being built, as this could see green belt used for housing. He said while the choices wouldn’t always be easy doing nothing would be worse.
“I am not pretending it is always going to be easy, but the opposition I am concerned about most of all is what happens if we don’t make these reforms.
“The opposition of young people and others out there that are looking for decent homes – either to rent or buy; what would happen if their political leaders fail them – and that is certainly not going to happen with this government.”
Javid said the White Paper will focus on measures that ensure more land is released in the “right places” for development, with a focus on brownfield development, rather than the “sacrosanct” green belt. However, he did say in “the most exceptional circumstances” green belt should be a consideration.
The Housing White Paper is expected to be published this month.