BLOG: Quality and quantity

Investment in smaller housebuilders, offsite construction and twice as quick build rates: what does this all mean for housing quality and sustainability, asks Gwyn Roberts, HQM Project Leader and BRE Homes and Communities Team Leader October 10, 2016 / Isla MacFarlane
BLOG: Quality and quantity

Once again housebuilding is high up on the agenda at Conservative Party conferences, while not a total a change in direction it certainly is a different emphasis – but how will this impact householders in the future?

With two funds being announced (or part re-announced), the first being the £3 billion Home Building Fund (divided between £1 billion for innovative small builders and £2 billion for infrastructure) and the second separate £2 billion loan fund will pay for a further 15,000 new homes by 2020 on surplus public sector land, the Government is certainly trying to put its pocket where its mouth is.

The first £1 billion is possibly the most interesting, as it is aimed at small builders, customer builders and innovators.  While it is difficult to generalise, often smaller builders can be more innovative, and agile improving the performance and quality of homes. Egg Homes, HAB, Lumiere, Zed and Pocket Living are all pushing the boundaries in terms of quality, sustainability, innovation, construction technics and affordability, hopefully these are the types of developers that could benefit from the fund.

While at early stages, there are signs that building high quality, sustainable homes can release different streams of investment,  Lloyds have recently offered £1 Billion of low interest loans for Sustainable developments, with BREEAM and Home Quality Mark (HQM) being used as the measurement tool of how sustainable the development is.

The second separate £2 billion fund for development on surplus public sector land could also help drive higher quality, more sustainable homes. Government has a history of driving higher standards, in the past the view was that where Government was spending taxpayers’ money, then it should help to drive the market forward.

Over the last two decades social housing providers have been leaders in delivery high quality, sustainable homes that people want. These homes have transformed millions of people’s lives, often lifting them out of substandard housing, with examples such as the EcoTown in Bicester, Derwenthorpe in York or Hanham Hall in Bristol all show how social housing (combined with high quality private sale homes) can have positive outcomes for all.

Encouraging different construction methods, particularly factory built homes or offsite construction can help to address some of the skills issues, but housebuilding still needs to attract a more diverse workforce to work in many different roles. With Hinkley Point Nuclear getting the go ahead, this could result in a drain on skills in the housebuilding sector.

Fundamentally, while government money and incentives help – housebuilding needs to improve its image still further to help attract a more diverse workforce, help achieve planning and also ensure sales.

According to a recent Home Builders Federation survey, 46% of people said it was unlikely that they would buy a new home. Despite efforts to try and redress this, new homes still have an image problem.  This has been underlined by the recent All Party Parliamentary Group for Excellence in the Built Environment inquiry in the quality of new homes.

The Home Quality Mark is a new certification scheme from BRE that provides consumers with the tools to understand the benefits of their home and for housebuilders a way in which to differentiate their product.

In helping housebuilders communicate the benefits of their homes, in a trusted, independent way this can improve the image and perception of new homes, creating greater acceptance, encouraging a more diverse, skilled workforce and lever financing for both the private, the social housing sector and everything in between!

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