Lon­don must lead the hous­ing revo­lu­tion

The cap­i­tal’s plan­ning chair Nicky Gavron says fac­tory-built homes are the an­swer

London Evening Standard (West End Final B) - ES Homes and Property - - London’s Housing Crisis -

FROM fac­tory floor to front door, could the cap­i­tal lead an off­site man­u­fac­tured hous­ing revo­lu­tion? As a Lon­don politi­cian work­ing on plan­ning, hous­ing and the environment, find­ing in­no­va­tive ways to help crack the hous­ing cri­sis is a top pri­or­ity. Off­site man­u­fac­tur­ing is an ex­cit­ing new so­lu­tion and this is what I set out to ex­plore in my Lon­don Assem­bly plan­ning com­mit­tee re­port, “De­signed, sealed, de­liv­ered”.

In the next 20 years, Lon­don will need at least 50,000 ad­di­tional homes an­nu­ally — but we are build­ing half that. A step change in our ap­proach to hous­ing is re­quired. Tra­di­tional con­struc­tion tech­niques can only go so far. Off­site man­u­fac­tured hous­ing, or OSM, is an ex­cit­ing and in­no­va­tive way to close the gap be­tween sup­ply and the di­verse range of homes Lon­don­ers need.

I have been very im­pressed by what we’ve seen in Lon­don, vis­it­ing sites and lis­ten­ing to res­i­dents. Th­ese homes are very high qual­ity, dig­i­tally de­signed, pre­ci­sion-en­gi­neered, en­vi­ron­men­tally friendly and af­ford­able to live in, slash­ing en­ergy bills by as much as £1,000.

This is a dif­fer­ent way of build­ing. The man­u­fac­tured home com­po­nents are brought to site from fac­to­ries out­side Lon­don and are con­structed in weeks, with res­i­dents mov­ing in soon af­ter.

Some es­ti­mates put com­ple­tion rates at 60 per cent quicker than tra­di­tional con­struc­tion, with 80 per cent less waste. Truly 21st cen­tury homes. This new way of build­ing will cre­ate new jobs and skills and at­tract new re­cruits into the in­dus­try, par­tic­u­larly among young peo­ple and women.

As Mark Farmer, au­thor of the Farmer Re­view on the con­struc­tion in­dus­try, “Modernise or Die”, said: “Fu­ture skills in con­struc­tion may look very dif­fer­ent to what we cur­rently see on a build­ing site, and we should be plan­ning ahead for this in Lon­don right now.”

This is an ex­cit­ing propo­si­tion for Lon­don­ers. The smart build­ing tech­nol­ogy pro­duces high-cal­i­bre homes that work whether you are a young fam­ily, sin­gle, or older. They are par­tic­u­larly suit­able for first-time buy­ers and renters at all in­come lev­els.

So, why haven’t we seen more of th­ese in Lon­don? From my ex­ten­sive dis­cus­sions with in­dus­try play­ers a com­plete con­sen­sus has emerged, that growth is be­ing held back, above all, by the lack of co-or­di­nated con­ti­nu­ity of de­mand. If that ex­ists, then the mar­ket will re­spond and vol­umes will in­crease. And, if there’s any­where in the coun­try where there is an ev­i­dent scale of hous­ing need and an on­go­ing re­quire­ment for new homes for decades to come, it is Lon­don.

We need a step change in de­liv­ery, and the Mayor is in a unique place to catal­yse it. He is al­ready show­ing sup­port to the sec­tor but we need to go fur­ther. The re­port rec­om­mends that he com­mit pub­lic land — par­tic­u­larly Trans­port for Lon­don’s — re­sources and use his poli­cies in the Lon­don Plan and other strate­gies to in­cen­tivise the in­dus­try.

Other rec­om­men­da­tions in­clude: adopt­ing a man­u­fac­tured hous­ing de­sign code, cre­at­ing an­other round of his In­no­va­tion Fund and set­ting up a spe­cific de­liv­ery frame­work panel of de­vel­op­ers and con­trac­tors ded­i­cated to OSM, along with an in­de­pen­dent ad­vi­sory panel of ex­perts.

This is a once-in-a-gen­er­a­tion chance to work col­lab­o­ra­tively with in­vestors, de­vel­op­ers and pol­icy mak­ers at a time when ex­perts and government are all call­ing for the same thing to hap­pen.

The OSM revo­lu­tion would be a win­win all round and the stakes are too high not to make it one.

Nicky Gavron AM chairs the Lon­don Assem­bly plan­ning com­mit­tee. Read her re­port “De­signed, sealed, de­liv­ered” at lon­don.gov.uk

Left: Ge­orge Wil­liams Court, Richard Rogers’ Y:Cube in Mitcham, was de­vel­oped with YMCA Lon­don South West to of­fer 36 sin­gle­u­nit homes at af­ford­able rent

Below: 24 twobed­room flats at PLACE/Lady­well, fac­tory-made in Der­byshire as an in­terim so­lu­tion to a so­cial hous­ing short­fall in Lewisham

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