Flatpack homes represent a change in housebuilding

Flatpack homes represent a change in housebuilding

With the news that a housing association has signed a £2.5bn flatpack homes deal, Tepilo looks at how Britain’s performing when it comes to the construction of new and affordable homes.

Something that is always a hot topic of conversation in our industry is affordable homes – and how to go about creating more of them. In a previous blog we asked whether pre-fabricated homes are one solution to the UK housing crisis, helping the government to build new, affordable homes quickly, efficiently and in large quantities.


Well, since then, there has been some movement in this very area. In the last few days, in fact, it was revealed that a housing association in Warrington has signed a £2.5 billion ‘flatpack’ homes deal. 
Your Housing Group (YHG), based in Warrington, will work with specialist renewable energy firm WElink Group to develop 25,000 solar-powered, energy efficient modular homes, creating up to 1,000 jobs in the process. 


The proposals are backed by Chinese investment, with finance being pumped in by the China National Building Material Company to help build six ‘flatpack’ factories across the UK, including in Scotland, the north of England and South Wales.  


The government, which has set itself an ambitious target of 1 million new homes by 2020, said this venture “has the potential to benefit local communities across the country, creating jobs, boosting local economies and creating homes”.


According to a YHG spokesman, the joint venture will help to kickstart a new wave of affordable, low-carbon, energy efficient homes in the UK. The properties will all include solar panels, be at least 75% off-grid and constructed using local supply chains and locally-sourced materials and skills as much as possible.

 

The government’s hope is that the speed and efficiency with which these modular homes can be built can help to ease the burden on the nation’s housebuilders. For centuries the UK has been reliant on bricks and mortar for its house-building needs, but ventures like this could start to change all that. 


The news comes hot on the heels of research, carried out by conveyancing firm My Home Move, which found that just 4% of affordable homes purchased in 2016 were new-builds. Such figures suggest the government is failing to reach its own targets regarding new-build homes. 


My Home Move’s findings showed that the highest number of affordable homes (counted as properties below the stamp duty threshold of £125,000) can be found in northern counties such as Durham, South Yorkshire and Merseyside. By contrast, London, Surrey and Hertfordshire have the lowest proportion, with an average of just 1%. 


A north-south divide is often talked about when it comes to property, and it is once again shown in stark terms by this research. 


In last month’s Autumn Statement the government reaffirmed its promise to build many more homes across the UK. In particular, there was an emphasis on 40,000 additional affordable homes being built. 
My Home Move’s study shows that two in three people believe affordable homes should be priced at below £120,000, which raises the legitimate question of whether the government can meet its pledges on affordable properties. 


In the affluent counties of Berkshire, Hertfordshire, Surrey and Greater London, the problem is especially acute. In the last year only 1,544 properties were sold for less than £125,000 across these four regions. Of these, just 57 were new-builds. 


All of which suggests, of course, that the government have plenty more to do to turn their pledges into something much more concrete. While ventures like the modular homes deal are welcomed – and act as one way of building more affordable homes – the government will have to do far more if they want to meet the targets that have been set.