The Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee has highlighted the need for Government to promote modern methods of construction to get anywhere near its target of 300,000 new homes a year by mid-2020s. There is a need for a wider exercise of political will to achieve the shift.
The Committee’s report recommends Government support for:
- Increasing capacity in the supply chain and ensuring that the workforce is appropriately skilled, working with Homes England and training centres to develop skills programmes;
- Improved data collection to demonstrate the long-term viability of the methods to both investors and consumers (and grant funding of MMC projects);
- The application of MMC to social housing given that it often includes large numbers of similar homes, lowering costs and providing certainty of demand.
Turn up the volume
Discussion on MMC has been running for years and is not a new phenomenon; the Barker Review (2003) flagged it as an important lever for speed, quality and skills. The benefits for small, high density plots where modules can be slotted into a serviced core are clear and the resurgence of Build to Rent means that the economics of very quick delivery and releasing units onto the market at the same time stack up.
The picture for new settlements and urban extensions – where the majority of the extra 100,000 homes a year realistically needs to come from – is less clear. Institutional players are investing in MMC and smaller players are developing compelling products for bigger sites.
The constraints on delivery are complex, though. As the Letwin Review noted, they do not relate solely to build out rates – absorption rates and the price/demand curve are key.
That leads to the exercise of political will:
- allocating more land for growth through Local Plans than the absolute minimum required –so creating a better pool of land, better pricing for it and more resilience in delivery;
- being prepared to approve good growth – treating housing need as important as the need for crematoria and ending the Call In blitz in London and arbitrary appeal refusals;
- facilitating greater direct delivery by the public sector, which is the historic factor behind the housing delivery rates in the two housebuilding surges after the First and Second World Wars;
- resisting the temptation to slide dire Local Plans through for the sake of it;
- acting on the Housing Delivery Test horror show by the time the numbers hit the wall in 2020.
With genuine political will, MMC will be able to make a greater contribution.
Dentons Planning & Public Law team advised Tide Construction on the world’s tallest modular scheme.