BSA Housing report offers solution to supply shortage

The BSA launched a progressive housing report on 17th November, entitled ‘Laying the foundations for Modern Methods of Construction (MMC)’.

The report considers this particular type of house building and how it fits into the existing UK property industry. With a focus on offsite construction, it also explored the role of house builders, surveyors, mortgage lenders and general insurers. Largely caused by a lack of housing supply, it seeks to offer a means of easing this current property crisis.

Underbuilding has been an issue for the UK over many years and the contribution at present is unable to meet the annual target set by the Government of 200,000 new homes. Offsite construction methods may alleviate the housing supply pressure somewhat by building houses at a faster rate, whilst still retaining a high level of quality, efficient design and an affordable price. Diversifying housing supply may be the only way the UK supply and demand property imbalance can be put right.

Included in the report are the following recommendations:

  • Member guidance should be provided by the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) through its Valuation Professional Standards. This sets out the standard approach to be taken that valuers should adopt when giving a valuation for the purpose of a mortgage.
  • The small but developing industry could be nurtured by the Government by taking the lead on its projects such as Northstowe. It may also provide a catalyst to allow innovative building technology to extend to reach critical mass by bringing the housing industry together.
  • Standardisation of terminology and systems should occur along with an increase in online based information, in order for valuers and lenders to understand the numerous MMC systems available.
  • In order to move away from the post-war vision of offsite constructions, a programme should be adopted to ensure an improved picture that is cheaper to run whilst being robust and superficially impressive.

Commenting on the need to break the housing crisis cycle was Dick Jenkins. The BSA Chairman expressed the potential impact which the adoption of new building practices could have for consumers: ”We have to explore radical solutions to solve the housing crisis.  To get there we rely on Government to lead the way and break the cycle in relation to new construction technologies.  At present supply is so low that lenders can’t routinely lend on these properties because they don’t fully understand the risks, and builders won’t build more of this type of home because mortgage lending is in limited supply as is home insurance.

“For the sake of consumers, these types of building technology must become as conventional and mainstream as brick and block has been for the past 100 years.  If we do this it could be a game-changer.”

Mentioning the need for big changes in the industry was MP Richard Bacon. The Chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Self-Build, Custom and Community House building and Placemaking said: Although there are numerous Government schemes to help First-Time Buyers buying their first property, we have not cracked the problem surrounding housing in the UK – it spreads across all tenures. If we are to produce enough houses, we need big changes.

“The introduction of off-site construction using the latest technology – known as Modern Methods of Construction (MMC) – will make a big difference. This area has seen huge changes in recent years. Bespoke houses which cost almost nothing to heat and that are made-to-measure for each customer, configured on a laptop and then delivered within weeks – erected on serviced plots with the broadband, water, electricity and gas already in place – are a reality now, but not yet at scale.

“Buyer demand is already growing and will grow further as MMC becomes a conventional choice, adding an effective additional measure to tackle the Housing crisis.”

Commenting on the need for development in the house building industry was architect, George Clarke. Advocating the MMC, the presenter also mentioned that the housing industry lagged behind others in its progress.

 “The future of mass house building in the U.K. relies on a combination of creative design with advanced and innovative building technologies. The house building industry is still stuck in the dark ages compared with other industries such as the automotive industry, the aviation industry and telecommunications. Offsite home manufacturing is the only way we are going to build the number of homes we need, that are affordable and of a quality that is acceptable for future generations.”

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