Boost productivity using modern methods of construction, end Right to Buy, and a need for a long-term housing strategy were the key points raised at the recent Residential Question Time Debate in London which included a panel of esteemed residential professionals.

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Boost productivity with modern methods of construction

The shortfall in housing supply is well recognised in the industry. The Farmer Review forecasts a possible 25% reduction in workforce within the next 10 years and many in the room recognised that modern methods of construction could help boost productivity, as seen in the manufacturing industry.

Richard Jones, Head of Residential and Regeneration at Arcadis argued “why are we still trying to build houses in the Great British weather?" Utilising modern construction methods to build parts of (or entire) homes in factories, through methods such as cross-laminated timber frames and prefabricated bathroom pods this could provide guaranteed high quality products that boost the rate at which homes can be built.

Although it was agreed that currently more demand for these types of construction is needed, as without this it will be hard to achieve investment and economies of scale. Further it was recognised that government support for modern methods of construction is required to boost investment and for these methods of construction to have an impact on the shortfall of affordable housing.

Put an end to Right to Buy

In 2016 the commons communities and local government select committee found that 40% of ex-council flats sold through statutory Right to Buy were now private rental properties. Whilst some in the audience believed that this figure was now more likely to be over 50%, it was for this reason that the over whelming consensus was that Right to Buy needs to be abolished.

With more and more ex-council flats now in the private rented sector it appears that everyone apart from the landlord is losing out.  Properties are sold by councils at a discounted rate, rent is higher for the tenant than it would be if it was social housing and Housing Benefit is used towards the more expensive rent.

The panel also expressed that Right to Buy is now taking homes away from people requiring social housing as councils have neglected to reinvest and replenish housing stock once they are sold and so there is a lack of homes to meet an increasing demand for social housing.

Long term strategy not initiatives

Across my 42 year career there have been 26 housing ministers, 7 since 2010

Throughout the evening a recurring theme was that there has been a lack of coordination in government housing policy with the focus on short term housing initiatives, which at times have counteracted each other.

With the latest UK Residential Market Survey indicating a soft patch in the UK housing market, due to a lack of significant growth in demand since the start of the year and with only modest predicted sales growth over the next twelve months it was felt that the government needs to be focussed on a long term overarching strategy.

This needs to bring together housing initiatives and shift focus on to long term strategies that can bring effective change to improve the housing crisis and supply of affordable homes.

Panellists

  • David Harbour -Chief Surveyor, eSurv (Chair)
  • Richard Jones - Head of residential and Regeneration, Arcadis
  • Stephen Howlett - Chief Executive, Peabody Group
  • Stephen Coleman - Director of Development & Investment, Lewisham Homes
  • Tracey Hartley - Asset Manager, Foundation Real Estate

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