Modular housing and zero net migration: UKIP manifesto

Lewis Johnston

Parliamentary Affairs Manager (RICS)

After a suspension of campaigning following the tragic events in Manchester last week, the parties resumed activities before the weekend. UKIP released their manifesto with a predictable emphasis on Brexit and immigration, and a striking focus on modular housing as a panacea for the housing crisis.

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Read and download UKIP's manifesto in full

UKIP’s housing spokesman Ray Finch MEP has stressed the importance of addressing the supply and affordability crises in housing, and UKIP has pledged to deliver housing that is affordable on the average national salary of £26,000. Their manifesto correctly points out the UK’s successive failures to deliver enough new housing to meet demand and takes the view that of the housing that is delivered, a large proportion is absorbed by population growth, much of which is down to migration. However, this analysis ignores the role of migrant labour in delivering new housing — our latest Construction Market Survey identified a shortage of skilled workers as a barrier to delivery.

Factory-built modular housing: a solution to the supply crisis?

UKIP’s proposal for tackling the housing crisis rests almost entirely on unleashing a modular-housing revolution that they claim will deliver an extra 100,000 affordable homes each year. Alongside a traditional house-building programme, this could contribute one million new homes by 2022. Modular housing and modern methods of construction (MMC) are under-utilised and we are pleased to see them given such prominence across the parties — they also featured strongly in the Housing White Paper earlier this year. However, this is not a panacea and we will only tackle the housing supply crisis with a broad-based approach, unlocking land, guaranteeing finance and unleashing supply across multiple delivery vehicles, including councils, developers and housing associations.

On this point, UKIP’s manifesto is hostile towards housing associations, which they claim are "unaccountable". This stance is a negative approach at a time when the sector is developing innovative ways to deliver at scale and need greater freedom to fulfil their potential.

Eradicating net immigration altogether

When the Conservative manifesto was released, commentators were struck by the retention of the pledge to reduce net immigration to the tens of thousands, a commitment seen by many as a bold statement of intent by the Prime Minister. UKIP have gone even further and pledged to completely eliminate net migration by the end of the next parliament.

At a time when the UK faces multiple challenges across the built environment — with ambitious targets across infrastructure projects, housing and construction — this policy is ill-conceived. We need a migration system that guarantees access to the skilled workforce we need and, while better training and education is a vital long-term component of that system, in the short- to medium-term, we can only deliver with access to workers from overseas.

With less than two weeks to go until polling day, almost all the major party manifestos have now been published. It will be interesting to see whether there are any new announcements across our sectors in what remains of the campaign. We will continue to work with all parties to deliver effective policies across the built environment.

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