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MMC can help us to build better quality affordable homes more quickly

Modern methods of construction can help us to build better quality affordable homes more quickly

Last month an investigation conducted by the Housing, Communities and Local Government Select Committee concluded that there is “compelling evidence” that England needs to build at least 90,000 more homes for social rent every year.

The select committee report provided some stark statistics which demonstrate some of the problems which a lack of social housing has contributed to, including:

  • Around half a million households are homeless or living in unsatisfactory housing conditions
  • The number of people rough sleeping has risen 165% since 2010
  • One in every 200 people are without a home
  • One child in nine lives in an overcrowded home

Last year less than 7,000 social rent homes were built in England.

Evidence gathered by the Select Committee shows that England needs the supply of new social housing to increase by more than 12 times that amount every year to 90,000 new homes for the next 15 years to meet demand.

In April this year the Affordable Housing Commission (AHC) submitted evidence to the Government’s inquiry on the ‘Long-term delivery of social and affordable housing’.

The AHC calls for the creation of a national affordable housing strategy to ensure that no child born today should face living in housing that is unaffordable for them by 2045 - the time they are old enough to form a household of their own.

What difference can MMC make?

Of all the new homes built in Britain every year, currently only around 15,000 new homes are factory made.

However, Japan – which produces the highest number of homes using MMC – builds more than ten times more homes in factories than Britain does every year.

As such, Japan builds between 150,000 to 180,000 factory made homes per annum.

Across Europe, Savills expects the UK to see the strongest growth in MMC production, with the proportion of new homes being delivered off-site doubling from 10% today to 20% by 2030.

It is important to note that new MMC homes being provided are not just for social rent but for all types of tenure. However, these figures help to give an indication of the potential growth for MMC in the UK and the role that it can play in helping to deliver better quality social housing more quickly.

At a recent webinar Public Sector Plc surveyed a number of large housing associations to understand more about their experiences of MMC and why factory-made homes work for them.

More than 50% of respondents said they take into account the impact of tenant heating/electricity bills when appraising homes built using MMC.

Energy bills for factory-built homes are far lower than homes built using traditional construction methods.

As an example, the three-bedroom zero carbon homes now being developed by Public Sector Plc cost as little as £10 a month to run.

Of the housing associations surveyed almost a third (29%) expected the future lifecycle costs for MMC homes to be lower, while two fifths (41%) thought costs would be the same and almost a third (29%) were unsure.

While initial construction costs can sometimes be higher with MMC than with traditional methods, factory-built homes help housing associations and their tenants to benefit from:

  • Lower operating costs.
  • Earlier revenue from rents and sales as homes are built more quickly.
  • The financial benefits of a higher-quality product and digital record, leading to reduced maintenance costs over the lifecycle of the asset
  • Significantly reduced carbon emissions

Furthermore, the additional costs involved in upgrading an MMC house to zero carbon are much less than for traditionally built house due to the higher specification and higher environmental standards of MMC homes.

Our survey showed that using modern methods of construction onsite and timber frame construction were the favoured types of MMC being specified by housing associations to date. Almost two thirds of registered providers stated they had used these methods.

However, off-site volumetric was expected to see the largest growth in MMC with more than two fifths of respondents (43%) stating they are not currently using off-site volumetric but they intend to.

Panellised construction received the second highest number of votes with more than a fifth of respondents (21%) saying they intend to build homes using this method.

Public Sector Plc works with MMC manufacturers and offers factory-made homes using both 2D panellised and 3D volumetric methods in order to work with council and housing associations partners to find the best type of construction method to meet the unique challenges of each site.

As an organisation we are hugely excited that MMC has already proven that it can empower housing providers to build better homes more quickly.

Later this year Public Sector Plc will be delivering one of the biggest zero carbon MMC affordable housing developments in Britain.

As the Affordable Housing Commission have stated an economic recovery plan which has a focus on social rented and affordable housing will create jobs and growth and can help rebalance the housing system post Covid-19.

By harnessing the power of MMC we can build more social and affordable housing more quickly, creating homes which are better and cheaper for people to live in.

ENDS