Could Offsite Construction Help Boost Social Housing?

There’s a shortage of social housing in the UK. Inside Housing recently reported on a study by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) which stated that lack of access to social housing is one of the main contributing factors to the rise in child poverty in the country.

In fact, the JRF research revealed that the number of children living in poverty in the UK has risen by 500,000 in the past five years, putting the total figure at an estimated 4.1 million. What’s more, the percentage of children in the poorest fifth of the population living in private rented accommodation has jumped to 37 per cent, up from 17 per cent in 2005/06.

And it’s these families who have seen their housing costs increase the most in recent years. With a lack of social housing available to help those in need, it’s easy to see how families can end up in serious difficulties.

But an article in Building Products has suggested that using offsite construction methods could help bolster the supply of social housing, and do so quickly.

The news provider cited figures from the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government, which revealed that there were just 6,463 social housing properties constructed in 2017-18.

By contrast, 30,000 homes were built a year for this sector a decade ago. What’s more, there are 1.25 million families on the waiting list for social housing in the UK at present, with two-thirds of these having been on the list for over a year.

However, Actis told the news provider that offsite construction could help councils to build new social housing quickly and cost effectively.

Dan Anson-Hart, national specification manager at Actis, explained that it’s economic considerations that have resulted in a lack of social housing, rather than slow construction methods. However, he stressed that by addressing the latter you can make building such properties more economically viable.

“The opportunity to help make amends can be assisted by building them as speedily as possible – without compromising on quality or thermal efficiency of course,” he stated.

Mr Anson-Hart also pointed out that constructing timber frame houses takes around 30 per cent less time than building a traditional brick and block property.

“Much of the work, such as wiring, plumbing and insulation takes place in the factory – which means weather can’t hamper the process,” he added.

The government has been taking steps to encourage local councils to build more social housing, such as by lifting the council house borrowing cap. It also announced new funding to support the construction of social housing around the UK.

Building Products pointed out that the government unveiled £2 billion of funding to construct 40,000 new homes until 2029, while a further £9 billion was also promised for this purpose last year.

While that’s all positive, it’s not much help for those who are on a waiting list for social housing. That’s why using offsite construction methods could be so beneficial, as it will enable projects to progress more quickly and mean people get much-needed homes as soon as possible.