Off-site would help with Shelter’s three million social homes vision

Jemma Harris, regional sales director at Actis
Jemma Harris, regional sales director at Actis

A recent report published by housing charity Shelter stating that three million new social homes are required in England over the next 20 years to solve the housing crisis will require practical as well as economic and political assistance, says insulation specialist Actis.

Shelter’s 220 report entitled: ‘Building for our future’ was compiled with input from former Labour leader Ed Miliband, Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, Baroness Doreen Lawrence, TV architect George Clarke and Grenfell survivor Ed Daffarn.

The charity, which recently presented its recommendations to the government, says £11 billion a year could come from housing benefit savings, which would be made when tenants move from high cost private rental properties to lower rent social housing.

The move – as well as requiring the political will and financial management outlined in the report – will require a radical approach to building the homes, explained Jemma Harris, regional sales director at Actis, a long-term advocate of off-site construction.

Off-site, factory-built homes are around 30% quicker to construct than their traditional counterparts, with an added benefit that, with today’s shrinking skilled workforce, many of the elements don’t require such a high level of expertise.

“The combination of a quicker build which frees up more skilled man hours, and the fact that a smaller percentage of the overall construction process needs the talents of the most highly trained craftspeople means the high volumes are more feasible,” explained Jemma.

“And while they are quicker to build, they are excellent quality and thermally efficient. They are not like the prefabs of the post war era, another occasion when we needed to build a lot of homes in a very short time.

“The London Assembly is already looking into building tens of thousands of homes in the capital via this method in order to make inroads into addressing the housing crisis there.”

And Mark Farmer in his 2016 review of the construction industry includes large-scale off-site construction in a ten-point plan of actions vital to prevent the industry’s ‘inexorable decline’.

Shelter estimates 277,000 people are now homeless in England, most commonly because they have lost their privately rented homes.

The charity says 1.3 million homes are needed to house those in greatest need – including homeless people and those living with a disability.

An extra 1.2 million homes would be made available for younger families who cannot afford to buy and face a lifetime in expensive and insecure private renting.

A lack of readily available social housing has led to a “drop in the numbers of young families moving into ownership, the rise of pensioners in insecure unaffordable private rentals, and the homelessness that scars our society,” the report found.