YHG Comment: Stephen Haigh - A step in the right direction
So, finally we see the Government’s much anticipated housing white paper released, albeit a long-time in the making and, if you’re to believe the rumours circulating around Whitehall, it’s been redrafted umpteen times to bring it a little more “in line” with wider Government thinking – whatever you believe, it’s just a relief to finally get our hands on it!
The “broken” housing market as the sector is referred to in the report, sees Theresa May wanting to “fix this broken market so that housing is more affordable and people have the security they need to plan for the future”. On face value this is a huge statement, which hasn’t been able to be “fixed” previously and something we have all heard before in one shape or another. What I think is different this time is the removal of the stick used so many times to beat the sector with, and the Government starting to question their own policies and practices, acknowledging that these need to change before we can be expected to attack the deficit.
Again it’s another report which highlights a series of large numbers, from the under supply of housing figures of 225,000 – 275,000 homes a year through to the annual salary figures across the UK being in the region of £24,542, eight times less than the average house prices in the UK!
These figures have been circulating for a long time and what I find most refreshing about the report is the approach to finally make changes to the processes currently in place across the sector, embracing the need to provide housing to meet the needs of all affordability. A key element of the report focusses on diversifying the housing market and opening it up to smaller builders and those who embrace innovative and efficient methods of build – exactly what our joint venture – Live Verde was all about when we announced it back in December 2016.
As I’ve said for a long time, we aren’t going to be able to address the housing deficit in the UK if we aren’t able to speed up the approaches to house building to keep up with the continuing demand for decent homes.
We know that modular or manufactured homes are precision built with the flexibility and adaptability to tackle the “broken” market, we know that manufactured off-site constructed homes are energy efficient from day one, which is significantly greater than those traditionally built and we definitely know that modular homes can be built 10 times faster than all traditionally built homes.
Modular isn’t, however much I would like to say it, going to solve everything, whilst it will be the catalyst to get the UK building again, it’s also about ensuring all elements of the report work together- whether that’s speeding up of the planning process, the shift towards more privately rented properties or the need for multi-tenure properties, where the occupier decides on how they live, as opposed to it being dictated to them, all elements currently putting the sector under unnecessary pressure.
My final word is about acting now and not taking the next 12 months to deliberate the paper’s recommendations – it needs to be turned in to bricks and mortar (or panels and modular systems!!) now!.